After three years as Folly Beach Public Safety chief, Dennis Brown is moving on.
Brown submitted his resignation on Wednesday after accepting a position elsewhere. Brown would not yet say where he had been hired, but said he would be announcing his new employer in the next few weeks.
"It has been my privilege to have served this fantastic community," Brown said. Mayor Tim Goodwin credited Brown for creating a community-oriented police force and redeveloping the fire department.
"He's done a good job for us," Goodwin said.
Brown said the department is much stronger today then when he arrived.
He said he wishes he could have seen one more effort through, the department's South Carolina Law Enforcement accreditation.
He said the department has already gone through major changes due to the process of accreditation including the creation of a new evidence room and the installation of a 1-800 number for their dispatch center.
"It has standardized a lot of our process," he said. "It's already made a substantial impact for us."
Brown has, however, received criticism during his tenure.
In 2012, some knocked Brown and the department after a riot on the beach during a Fourth of July weekend which resulted in more than 100 bags of garbage, a handful of injured public safety officers and a stack of arrest reports.
Some residents blamed the department for allowing unruly behavior.
In his time with Folly Beach, Brown also has struggled with low morale among some members of his force and high employee turnover.
Many public safety officers vented their frustrations in resignation letters and exit interviews.
They described a lack of organization and professionalism in the department and complained about quotas for issuing traffic tickets.
One of the officers who resigned during Brown's tenure, Derik Hemingway, described making sacrifices to move his family from out of state to Folly Beach for a police job. He left his career in the military, he wrote in his resignation letter, to take up what he figured was a promising career.
But it didn't turn out as he expected, Hemingway wrote as he blamed Brown, Goodwin and other city leaders for a low quality of work life.
"All in all, this organization has some very good, hard working, competent people that fill its rank," Hemingway wrote. "However, the downfall of this agency is the Director. I fully believe, with a different Director, this agency would quickly turn around and the retention rate would significantly improve."
Brown said he has always valued the dedication and opinions of any staff member he's worked with.
"We have set a high standard of professionalism, accountability and responsibility for the department and sometimes staff members struggle to live up to that standard," he said. "We have always tried to incorporate the desires and the opinions of the staff to help the agency improve, but we can't always fulfill every single wish and I have found change is often difficult."
Goodwin said the previous two police chiefs have all averaged 10 staff members a year leaving the department.
"So yeah, people come and go. Folly Beach is a unique place. A lot of young people come and get trained and want to leave to a bigger place," he said. "A lot come because they are at the end of their process and retire and leave. When you're in a small town, that happens a lot in the police department."
Folly Beach has long been known for its contentious, and at times, off-kilter politics. From rancorous council meetings to online jousting on social media, the island's mix of beach bums, burnouts, snow birds, retirees, wholesome families and out-and-out eccentrics have clashed regularly on everything from oceanside development to boozing on the beach.
Brown drew both praise and scorn during his tenure, from complimentary letters to the editor to a "down with Brown" message painted on the iconic Folly boat on the road into town. Some islanders considered him to be a strong, no-nonsense lawman. Others found to him to be too regimented and stiff for Folly's laid back environs.
Goodwin said he hasn't yet decided the process for the search of the next chief.
Councilman D.J. Rich said he hopes candidates are considered close to home.
"I think we have quality number two's in place leading the fire and police department and I hope we give in-house guys a chance before looking outside of the area," Rich said.
Brown, a North Carolina native, became Folly Beach's chief in April 2011. He previously had spent five years as chief of public safety in Wilton, Maine.
His resignation is expected to take effect around June 18.
Andrew Knapp and Glenn Smith contributed to this report. Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.
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