2009 MOJA Arts Festival

A Jonathan Green painting is on display at The City Gallery at Waterfront Park.

A couple of years ago, Mount Pleasant spent a lot of money to come up with a new town marketing plan.

This is probably not what they had in mind.

Mayor Billy Swails: "We do have violence."

Swails made that comment to Prentiss Findlay in today's Post and Courier while complaining about a three-day speed trap in his neighborhood. A speed trap that eventually netted his wife a traffic ticket.

The mayor said the cops have better things to do, like stemming the town's rising crime rate. Well, there goes the Chamber of Commerce campaign contribution.

But it gets worse. Earlier this week in the Moultrie News, the mayor went off on the police department, suggesting the timing and location of said speed trap might have been retaliation for his plan to cut retirement benefits for officers. And if that were the case, he said, heads would roll.


Swails retracted his statement on Thursday, but the damage had already been done. The mayor ought to know the first rule of politics: never get mad publicly.

Valid concern?

In the mayor's defense, 25 mph is a pretty lame speed limit.

It is hard to drive that slow, even on Muirhead Drive, without riding the brakes. But the police set up there after complaints from residents, and in three days ticketed 39 people for going at least 12 mph over the speed limit.

Sounds like there might have been some validity to the concerns. And despite the mayor's contention, a big part of the police's job is to keep the roads safe.

Swails said he complained about the trap to the police chief before his wife was ticketed (before he could warn her, he said) and didn't order it moved. But he has to know that in politics, perception is reality.

And beating up on the police, especially your own, is rarely good politics. Especially over a speed trap, which generally only irritates the people who get caught.

Thankless job

Police officers have a hard, thankless job.

They risk their lives every day for little pay, and have to deal with all manner of reprobates and ugly situations. They don't need unwarranted criticism on top of all that. Or a loss of benefits.

Swails complained to the Moultrie News that there were young guns out there who are less than courteous to citizens. Well, for every one officer like that there are 10 or 20 men and women out there just doing their jobs.

Mount Pleasant has long had a reputation of cracking down hard on drunk driving. You can thank the cops for making the streets safer. True, the crime rate in Mount Pleasant is up, but it's a minor rise and the rates were low to begin with. It's certainly not South Central, despite the mayor's quote.

Without proof, Swails should not have suggested police are retaliating against his proposal to cut one of the few perks of their job. Good thing he apologized.

It sounds like he's either got a tin ear or a guilty conscience.

Follow Brian Hicks on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.