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Drop in for retiring Swansea police chief brings about a mix of emotions for many

Swansea, SC (Paul Kirby) –A drop in for retiring Swansea Police Chief Cliff Hayes was held Friday afternoon at the town's police department. A huge crowd gathered to wish Chief Hayes well. It was an opportunity for old friends to reminisce about days and incidents gone by. In total, the friends that were gathered have hundreds of years of combined law enforcement experience.  Chief Hayes, known for his passion for keeping the citizens of Swansea and Lexington County safe, had a huge smile on his face as dozens of law enforcement officers joined old friends to celebrate the end of a phenomenal career. Sworn officers from the Lexington County Sheriff's Department and the Gaston, South Congaree, Pine Ridge, Pelion, Lexington, Springdale, and several other police departments joined retired law enforcement legends like former Swansea Police Chief Ben Spence (ret.) and former North Police Chief Mark Fallaw (ret.) to give Chief Hayes the sendoff he had earned through his decades of service.  Chief Hayes began his career at the Lexington County Sheriff's Department. He was a member of the Patrol Division and later worked as the Swansea contract deputy when the town relied on the sheriff's department for all its law enforcement needs. The Town of Springfield‘s current Assistant Police Chief Chris Garner fondly reminisced Friday afternoon about Chief Hayes and how far he had come in his career since starting as a green recruit. “I have known Cliff Hayes since he walked in the door and began his law enforcement career at the Lexington County Sheriff's Department,” Garner said. Chief Garner, who served as the South Region commander for the sheriff’s department until his retirement, continued by saying, “He served under my command as a patrol deputy and then as the Swansea contract deputy. He has always been driven and dedicated to being a police officer,” Garner who now organizes and teaches pursuit driver training for officers continued by saying, “I quickly took note on Cliff’s driving ability in pursuits and he remains a master instructor where he instructs for me at the Camden Motor Sports Complex. The town of Swansea has some big boots to fill.”

Hayes came to Swansea full-time under now retired Police Chief Ben Spence. He became the town's assistant police chief and when Spence moved to the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, Hayes was promoted to the position of chief. He's overseen the department as the area has grown. Most recently, he has worked to modernize equipment placing several new patrol cars into service to replace several that had in excess of 150,000 miles on them. Hayes's wife said Friday afternoon that his retirement was bittersweet. “He bought that Tahoe while he was chief and most recently bought the two new Chargers, equipped and put them into service. He loves this job and I know it's hard for him to let it go. There was a lot of stress that came with the job that he tried to leave at the office. That can be tough to do. We're just ready to see him take a break so we can enjoy some more time with him.” Swansea’s only other full-time sworn officer, Sgt. Eddie Stone, organized the drop-in Friday. Stone said that he planned for a large crowd because of the respect that Chief Hayes had in the town and across the law enforcement community. “I knew a lot of people would show up because he really is a legend. The chief made it clear to me when I came to the Swansea Police Department that we weren’t going to tolerate anybody coming here and preying on the citizens of this town by breaking the law. He’s said that over and over again. It was an honor to work side-by-side with a man as dedicated as Chief Hayes to fighting all the issues that come with the drug problem we’ve seen across this area.”  Sergeant Stone also alluded to Chief Hayes’ legendary pursuit driving skills in an earlier interview with The Ledger. In that interview Sgt. Stone said, “I had a car in front of me and I knew that it was stolen. When it was time to light that driver up and pull it over, the driver took off and the chase was on. The chief was right there, and I let him take the lead. He is a great pursuit driver, and you have to know your strong points. Although I’ve been in many pursuits myself, I know that man can drive the tires off anything. We chased that car down and together we eventually arrested that driver.” Hayes's wife and teenage son were both at the drop-in Friday afternoon. Hayes said they made a big difference in his decision to retire. “I promised my wife that I was going to take six months off and have nothing to do with law enforcement,” Hayes said. “I'm going to stick to my word and do that. I'm a man of my word. Then, after the six months is up, if I still have the bug, I'll do something part-time. Right now, I am going to work in my construction business, do a little bit with some rental property I have, and spend more time with my family.”  Chief Hayes's final radio call happened around 3:00 p.m. Friday. After dispatch listed his many career accomplishments in the final farewell call, and hearing others praise him on the radio for all he's done over the years, Chief Hayes went 10-42, the radio signal for off duty. This was a very emotional moment for Hayes as it was for those involved in orchestrating it.  The town of Swansea has not yet named a successor or interim chief. Until they do, Sgt. Stone will have to rely on surrounding departments and the Lexington County Sheriff's Department for assistance in keeping the town safe.

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