Saving a life is worth experiencing a little frustration behind the wheel.
That's how Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen responded to criticism sparked by a checkpoint last week near Folly Beach that caused traffic headaches for drivers leaving the Edge of America on Memorial Day.
Drivers stuck in the afternoon gridlock took to social media calling the operation ridiculous and ill-planned.
Mullen stands by the department's decision to hold the checkpoint at that place and time, the first day of the season's "100 Deadly Days of Summer," which runs through Labor Day and marks the most dangerous time of year on the roadways in South Carolina.
"Folly Road and that surrounding area has been a place where there have been fatalities, and many of them have been alcohol-related," Mullen said.
Police expected traffic to back up during the checkpoint, which is why, Mullen said, specific actions were taken. Mullen said when cars started to significantly back up, police would wave several vehicles through the checkpoint to ease the congestion.
Officers did not, however, anticipate that cars would back up into the side streets on Folly Beach.
Paul Chrysostom was watching the line of cars from his store on Folly Beach.
"They looked miserable," he said. "I don't blame them."
Mullen said once Charleston police were notified of the backup, they called off the checkpoint.
Mullen said he does regret the lapse in communication between his department and Folly Beach Public Safety. Department officials said they were given no advance notice of the checkpoint.
"The City of Folly Beach was unaware of the checkpoint and had no input on how or where it was being conducted," a post on the city's Facebook page said. "We appreciate the feedback that we have received from the public in regards to the checkpoint but wanted to share the fact that we were just as much surprised by the checkpoint as you were."
Mullen said it was a mistake on their part to keep Folly Beach Public Safety out of the loop.
"We should have communicated with them," Mullen said. "I have assured the director of public safety that in the future we will communicate with them."
Mullen, however, stands by the department's decision to hold checkpoints, day or night.
"If we were not doing any traffic enforcement and someone would have been killed, we would have been having a conversation about why we didn't have a checkpoint," Mullen said.
The chief said he has no intention of frustrating the public, but in the effort to promote public safety, there's a balance that needs to be attained.
"Was it worth it? If it saved a life, then it's worth it," Mullen said. "Problem is, you never know what you prevent."
Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.
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