Just three days into the job, newly minted Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis began naming new top brass Wednesday.
Hanahan Police Chief Mike Cochran is joining the department as chief deputy, according to Lewis. Former Interim Sheriff and Chief Deputy Rick Ollic will stay with the Sheriff’s Office, overseeing cold cases and special investigations.
Neither Cochran nor Ollic returned calls seeking comment.
In addition, several employees have retired and “seven or eight” have been let go, Lewis said. He was not sure of exact numbers.
“I haven’t fired anybody, I just have not retained some people,” he said. “I don’t like using that word (fired). It’s been a really, really stressful couple of days.”
Lewis said the changes are part of his commitment to the residents of Berkeley County to improve efficiency and strengthen public safety.
State law allows sheriffs to make changes to their department as they see fit, said S.C. Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jarrod Bruder. It is common for a newly elected sheriff to hire and fire, especially within the command staff, he said.
“Anybody that serves in the Sheriff’s Office serves at the pleasure of the sheriff, so that’s entirely his right,” he said. “(Deputies) work for him at his pleasure and not only that, but the sheriff can be held personally liable for the actions of his deputies, so he has to have a comfort level with those that are working for him.”
On Monday during his first hours in office, Lewis said he was studying the organizational chart to determine how best to restructure the department, and interviewing for command staff positions. C.W. “Butch” Henerey, the retired chief deputy who was appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley to run the department until a new sheriff was sworn in, is helping with the transition.
“It takes time to turn the ship, but I have full intentions of doing that,” he said.
Lewis said Wednesday he met Cochran at a law enforcement convention shortly before he became Hanahan’s chief nearly four years ago. Cochran started his career in Hanahan, where he was an officer for about two years in the early 1990s, and also spent 17 years with the Lauderhill (Fla.) Police Department.
“Mike’s a very intelligent man,” Lewis said. “He understands modern police techniques and he’s very up-to-date on technology and cameras and computer systems. He just brings a wealth of knowledge with him.”
Cochran, who has a doctorate in education and a master’s in public administration, has also served as an adjunct professor at the College of Charleston, Charleston Southern University and Trident Technical College.
“When the city of Hanahan selected me to be the chief of police in late 2011, it was a dream come true,” Cochran said in a statement released by the county. “I have absolutely loved working for, serving with and helping the people of Hanahan. When hired, Hanahan’s City Council wanted community policing instilled in the agency and throughout the city. ... I look forward to being able to continue to serve the great citizens of Hanahan and all of Berkeley County as Chief Deputy.”
Hanahan City Administrator Johnny Cribb said he is sorry to see Cochran go.
“Chief Cochran has been a tremendous asset to our city,” he said. “The impact he made on our community and police department has been above and beyond even the highest of expectations and will be missed by our residents, businesses and staff.”
Former Sheriff Wayne DeWitt, who served for 20 years, was arrested by Hanahan police on Dec. 28 and later charged with driving under the influence. Dewitt stepped down in February, triggering the special election that put Lewis in office.
Ollic, who ran against Lewis and 12 others in the April 21 Republican primary for sheriff, has been a member of the Sheriff’s Office since 1986. He served as interim sheriff for two weeks before Haley named Henerey to the position. He also led the Investigative Division for 15 years and was a major in charge of the department’s operations.
Other changes include the promotions of former Capt. Jeremy Baker to major of the Division of Uniform, Patrol and Judicial Services and former Capt. David Brabham to major of Investigations and Support Services.
“Majors Baker and Brabham have great records as true leaders in this office,” Lewis said. “I know they will continue this work and enhance our office’s ability to assist the public.”
Additionally, former patrol Sgt. Willie Hickman has been promoted to captain of the Uniform Patrol Division, and former Court Services Lt. Barry Currie has been promoted to captain of Judicial Services.
Salary information for the new positions was not available Wednesday, county spokesman Michael Mule said.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.