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Group forms to assist small Lexington County Police Departments obtain firearms and equipment 

South Congaree, SC (Diana Nation) - When Paul Kirby, the owner and editor of the Lexington Ledger, called former Swansea police chief Cliff Hayes requesting details on a police pursuit last spring, he never expected to hear the dangers that Chief Hayes had faced. Hayes pursued a fleeing vehicle deep into Calhoun County and eventually was able to get the vehicle with three men inside stopped. The problem was, Hayes wasn’t sure exactly where he was, and he was alone with just his department issued sidearm for protection. 

The pursuit had ended in a very rural area that had no streets signs for reference. Because Hayes didn't know his exact location quickly, it was difficult for dispatchers to tell Calhoun County deputies where Hayes was so they could provide backup. Not knowing if the men were armed, with what, or why they had fled, Kirby asked Chief Hayes what he had used to hold the three suspects at bay until help arrived. Hayes said he depended on his sidearm, a semiautomatic pistol. Kirby was shocked by this and asked why Hayes hadn’t used something with a bit more stopping power to cover the three men. “Chief, those guys could have had a cannon with them,” Kirby told the chief, “Why didn’t you use your assault rifle, anything with a little more bang?” Hayes’ answer shocked the journalist. He said, “We only have one assault rifle at our department. That day it was in another car.” Right then, Kirby realized just how easily these small departments could often be outgunned by the criminals they faced. 

Larger departments  like the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, the West Columbia Police Department, and the Cayce Department of Public Safety have helped budget shortfalls by forming foundations that offer their support. These are 501 C 3 charitable organizations that depend on volunteers to raise money. Those funds can then be used to purchase equipment the department’s budgets may not include. Through these foundations, tens of thousands of dollars have been raised and used to purchase everything from expensive K-9s to special flashlights. The problem is, the smaller departments with just a few full-time officers simply don't have the resources to start, recruit volunteers for, and have their own foundations.

After Kirby had written his story about Hayes’ pursuit, he talked with an old friend, retired Lexington County Sheriff’s Department regional commander and Pelion police chief (ret.) Chris Garner. Garner is now working again as the assistant police chief of the Town of Springfield, a small town in Orangeburg County. He knows too well the issues of policing in small departments that often have little backup. Garner said it’s common for these department’s officers to run into criminals that have powerful, multi-shot weapons with them. “These officers are doing the best they can, but the bad guys just get bigger, better, and more guns. Officers are often finding themselves outgunned,” Garner said. “It’s dangerous for these guys whose only backup may be miles away.” The longer the two talked, the more they felt they wanted to do something to help. 

The foundation concept was working well for the larger departments so the two felt a foundation that could assist and advocate for the smaller departments in Lexington County might work. From that conversation, Never Outgunned, LLC was conceived. 

Never Outgunned, LLC has organized and is going through the process of becoming a federal tax exempt 501 C 3 charity. A five member board of directors was selected and includes Kirby as a citizen with no police experience, Chief Garner, an active duty law enforcement officer, Kevin Nation, a retired police chief who now works as a civilian at the Judge Advocate General’s Office of Ft. Jackson, Pastor Gene Henderson, senior pastor at Ebenezer Pentecostal Holiness Church in South Congaree, and David Arnold, a retired law enforcement officer with fundraising experience. Since meeting the first time in August of 2020, the group has incorporated and is working toward their Federal Charitable Organization status. 

After their October, 2020 meeting, Chief Garner said in an interview, “Since we’ve formed and selected a board of directors, we’ve decided that we're going to start small and eventually expand countywide. We’re going to focus on the departments  that are south of Platt Springs Road first. ”This includes the little towns of Springdale, South Congaree, Pelion, Pine Ridge, Gaston, and Swansea. “Our current goal is to ensure those departments have an assault rifles to issue every full-time officer. We'd also like to see an assault rifle at those departments that can be shared by the part-time employees they often use.” Garner went on to say that once that goal has been achieved, Never Outgunned can expand to the small departments in the remaining parts of Lexington County. Once the primary goal has been met, Never Outgunned will begin asking chiefs what they're lacking and work toward helping to meet those needs. 

The group is working toward starting their fundraising efforts in the spring of 2020. “We’d like to have several fundraisers every year,” retired chief Kevin Nation said. “We’re currently looking at a golf tournament and an event centered around shooting sports. We feel as if the citizens of the area have always been supportive of their law enforcement officers and are willing to help. Our end goal is to ensure that no police officer in Lexington County ever finds themselves outgunned or lacking in the most essential equipment when they report for duty. We believe with the right planning and some hard work, that’s definitely attainable,” Nation stated. 

If you would like to know more about Never Outgunned or would like to offer your help, contact Paul Kirby at neveroutgunnedsc@gmail.com. You can also reach him by telephone at (803) 587-3144.

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