By the end of the year, the town of Pendleton will have its own police department. Chief Doyle Burdette, who was sworn in Oct. 5, has made hires and is working to gather everything necessary for the department to get up and running.
“We had nothing. We didn’t have patches, badges, cars or uniforms,” Burdette said. “We didn’t have computers or the forms we need. We had nothing.”
He, along with the town, has worked over the past several months to acquire the necessities for an operational police department.
“It is a whole lot easier to get it all right to start with instead of rushing everything and having to go back and fix things,” he said.
Preparing for the new department meant hiring police officers. Two former Pendleton police officers, John Marano and Carl Glenn, have been hired to the restored police force.
Burdette said there isn’t a solid start date yet, “but we are thinking it is going to be September, if not before. And the reason we cannot provide a solid start date is because I cannot get a solid time frame on delivery of goods, especially the cars. We’ve ordered Ford Interceptor SUVs, and those are extremely popular now with law enforcement, so that’s taking a bit longer.”
Burdette said once the department and the town have a better idea of a start date, they will schedule a meet and greet at Town Hall. The event will serve as a way for the public to get to know the officers and to see the uniforms and patrol cars, he said.
“There is technically a Pendleton Police Department right now, but we’re not patrolling,” Burdette said. “We’re here and working but not working in the capacity of law enforcement. The town is still covered by the county right now.”
Pendleton has received service from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office since the original department was disbanded in 2006. First, that service included a $300,000 contract to have sheriff’s deputies patrol the town. Then, “in 2014 we were trying to renew our contract with some performance measures included to track officer time in town and various other issues the town had noticed,” said Steve Miller, Pendleton town administrator. “After a year of negotiation in good faith from both sides, it was proposed that with the current county setup the sheriff could offer us the same level of service for free.”
Miller said the town’s police department was too large in 2006 to be supported by the financial resources of the town. “The budget for the police department in 2006 was close to $800,000, or roughly 50% of the General Fund at the time, and the department was needing additional money to try and retain officers.”
Miller said $320,000 has been budgeted for the initial startup of the department and will cover salaries and the purchase of new equipment. A renovation to part of the municipal complex also is planned to provide the police department with office space.
“All in all, it rounds out to about $600,000. That includes money set aside for construction. Operationally, for next year, we are budgeting $240,000 as of right now,” he said. The $240,000 will cover operations costs and police salaries, which Miller said range between $34,000 and $44,000.
Planning for the renovation continues. “We have not finalized any construction dates, or cost yet. Our plan has changed due to the historical nature of our building,” Miller said.
The building in which Town Hall resides was constructed in 1936 under the Civilian Conservation Corps Act during the Great Depression. Miller said window sizes, room sizes, molding and various other architectural accents of the building are considered significant now.
“We are trying to protect the basic design of the original building yet make it workable around the modern-day function,” he said.
In addition to setting up the new department, Burdette has visited with residents and business owners in town and spoken at various events.
“The biggest concerns among the people of Pendleton are drugs and traffic,” Burdette said. “Without a police presence there is a problem with speeding. We have several 25-mph zones and several 35-mph zones because it’s a small town, and the fact there’s not a hometown police department, there are rarely cars here, so there’s a speeding problem.”
As for a drug problem, Burdette said he has heard from concerned citizens there is a problem.
“I don’t think it’s a huge problem, compared with the size of the town, but a problem like it is anywhere. That’s something we will address once we get up and running,” he said.
Burdette warns, however, that having a police department will not necessarily eliminate crime.
“I’ve cautioned everybody,” he said. “It’s better to have a police department than not to have one, without a doubt, but by no means do we think that the three of us being here is going to stop all crime in Pendleton. “If somebody is determined to break the law, they are going to break the law. You can even look at large departments like the one in Greenville. They have 181 sworn officers, and they still have their problems.”
Burdette has worked in some form of law enforcement for more than 20 years. Throughout that time he hasn’t forgotten what he was told when he was first starting out.
“When I was a young officer, I was told ‘You are as nice as they let you be, and you’re as mean as they make you be,’” he said. “For 23 years I’ve gone by that, and it’s worked well.”
Burdette started his police work in Belton in 1993, spent a short time in Easley then served with the city of Greenville Police Department for 13 years. After working in Greenville, he took a job with a national training company in Barnwell, where he taught advanced combat tactics to law enforcement. He followed that job with police work in Barnwell before coming to Pendleton.