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Sheriff: Office changing to keep up with crooks

April 16, 2013 5:00 am  •  By LEE HENDREN T&D Government Writer

One day a woman came home, saw a pair of burglars running out of her back door and called the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office.

The first law officer to arrive — the one who happened to be nearest at the time — was Sheriff Leroy Ravenell.

Another officer arrived shortly afterward and they soon spotted two suspicious persons walking down a road. As they approached the pair, one stopped but the other ran off, and Ravenell dashed after him.

“I almost caught him, too, but just as I was reaching for his shoulder, he came right out of his shoes,” Ravenell said as he told the anecdote at Monday’s meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Orangeburg.

“All of us are deputies,” Ravenell said.

The Santee-area native and career law officer won a special election on Jan. 25, 2011 to complete the four-year term of Larry Williams, who died in office. He won a full term in November 2012.

“When I took office, I told the criminals there was going to be a change,” Ravenell said. “The county is growing and law enforcement has to keep up.

The crooks are getting smarter and we’ve got to keep up with them.”

And there have been changes, he said:

* More people have been trained as volunteer victim advocates to assist crime victims by “walking them through the process.”

* Some deputies have license plate readers that can alert them to stolen vehicles and wanted persons.

* K-9 units have been based across the county to reduce response time.

* A citizen’s academy gives ordinary residents an inside look at law enforcement.

* The office is “trying to be proactive” by going to schools with the messages that “we’re here to help” and that employers often believe a criminal record outweighs a high school diploma or even a college degree.

* Some deputies have received Tasers, which are “very helpful in saving lives” and reducing injuries to law officers and suspects alike.

“The first person in Orangeburg County who got Tased was your sheriff,” Ravenell said, explaining that it’s part of the training an officer must have before being issued a Taser. Ravenell said it was unpleasant.

“I wish that on nobody,” he said.

The sheriff credited the progress to “the people I have around me. I try to employ people who can do the job and trust them to do the job.” He said he tells his employees that “the law is the law” and nobody is above it.

But he said the public needs to remember that “we’re not super men and super women. We’re human too.”

It’s not easy to keep the peace among 100,000 people spread across 1,100 square miles who make tens of thousands of calls for assistance from the sheriff’s office every year, Ravenell said.

“I need your help. We have to work on this together,” the sheriff said. “We need to know what’s going on and we’ll take care of it. I ask for your continued prayers for the sheriff’s office and myself.”

* Contact the writer: lhendren@timesanddemocrat.com and 803-533-5552.

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