Horry County Council requests investigation into police department

Peter Cestare, HCPD crime scene specialist speaking in front of the Horry County Council.

An anonymous letter led to Horry County Council to request the State Law Enforcement Division investigate the Horry County Police Department evidence room and its procedure.

In September, an unsigned letter was sent to each member of the Horry County Legislative Delegation and county council.

The letter made nine allegations against the HCPD, stemming from police misconduct to missing evidence.

The legislative delegation made its request in September to SLED, who is still reviewing the request and has not made a decision on whether to carry out an investigation.

Horry County Council reviewed the letter and refuted all but one of the nine allegations. The only claim not refuted was that "monies and drugs often disappear from the evidence room."

Tuesday, Horry County Crime Scene Specialist Peter Cestare, along with Horry County Police Chief Johnny Morgan, argued in front of county council that "89,752 pieces of evidence and counting" are in the department's possession, all of which they can account for.

But in a six to two vote, council decided to ask SLED to investigate the one allegation they could not refute in the unsigned letter.

"I think we need to bring in SLED or someone else that we have to pay to come in and clear this cloud from our police department," said Horry County Council Vice Chairman Harold Worley.

He does not believe HCPD is corrupt, but believes there is a public perception that needs to be erased and a SLED investigation will do just that, he said.

"Whether we like it or not the cloud is there. We have to get that cloud off. The motion was to ask SLED to come in to look at the evidence room procedures to make sure that it is pure."

But Councilman Gary Loftus, one of the two members voting against the SLED investigation request, said a SLED investigation is unnecessary.

"I don't have any problem with SLED coming in and looking at us if it's warranted. But to do it based on an anonymous letter and one of nine items that were mentioned, eight of which were unfounded, I think to be a waste of manpower." said Loftus. "Not to mention what it does to the morale of the HCPD."

Horry County Solicitor Greg Hembree summed up the request by the council in one word, "wasteful."

"What is your threshold? What are you going to use to start an investigation on? I'm not going to use an anonymous letter. I think that's irresponsible," said Hembree. "I think it's reckless, and costly because anybody can write anything. Anybody can say anything."

Hembree said he believes he has a feeling of who sent the unsigned letter because he's gotten the same allegations brought to his office before, but that person identified themselves.

"I know what she said to me, and I know that it is very similar to what was contained in that letter. Now did she write it? I don't know, but it's curious that the same issues keep coming up surrounding that circle."

Horry County spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said if SLED does investigate the police department, they will cooperate.

SLED spokesperson Kathryn Richardson said "the request is still under review." Richardson would not go into detail about how the investigation would be funded if it is granted since the request is still under review.

How do you feel about the investigation? Do you think it's necessary.