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Retired law enforcement officer Garry Rozier announces he will challenge Sheriff Koon in 2024

Lexington, SC 01/17/2024 (Paul Kirby) – Retired law enforcement officer Garry Rozier said this week that he will challenge current Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon in the June 2024 Republican Primary. Rozier has 42 years of law enforcement experience to his credit and feels a change is necessary at the highest level of leadership within the department to better serve the needs of the citizens of Lexington County.


Rozier is the second retired law enforcement officer who has declared his intent to run against Koon in June of 2024. Billy Warren, a former SCHP instructor, announced he would run last spring. Rumors have since been circulating that Sheriff Koon would not run in 2024 but instead was seeking a law enforcement job with the Federal Government. Koon addressed that rumor earlier this week by mailing select people in the county a Re-Elect Jay Koon card along with a note denying these claims as misinformation.


Gary Rozier went to work for the South Carolina Highway Patrol in 1979. At that time, troopers were paid less than $7,000 a year. “I didn’t go into law enforcement for what I would be paid to do the job,” Rozier said during a recent interview. “I never actually asked what my pay would be. Law enforcement is a calling and it certainly called me. That calling would affect my family and a career that has fulfilled me over the past 40 plus years. I am running for Sheriff now because I believe I have a lot left to give and Lexington County is at a pivotal place in its growth. It's time for new leadership.”


While at the SCHP, Rozier turned his interest of flying into a part of his career. “I was the pilot for the SC Highway Patrol’s first airplane,” Rozier said. “I stayed with them for 25 years and rose through the ranks into leadership positions. I was blessed in the fact that the patrol paid for much of my flight training and helped me to gain the skills necessary to be able to assist troopers with enforcing the law from the air. At that time, it was the hay day of the cocaine epidemic in the US. The Aviation Unit was a big asset to the SCHP, especially in drug interdiction operations along the I-95 corridor from Florida to New York. We made a lot of arrest and some great cases with the airplane as a key part of those operations.”


When state politics became involved in the patrol’s Aviation Program and eventually their airplane was done away with, Rozier transferred to SLED where he flew their helicopter and worked as a lieutenant. He stayed there for another 10 years before leaving to take a position as the helicopter pilot for the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department. “I stayed with Lexington County for an additional 7 years,” Rozier continued. “I stayed until Sheriff Koon made the decision to discontinue the helicopter program and retire the aircraft. The age of drones was just beginning, and I realized that a manned aircraft like the helicopter was quickly becoming outdated because of operational cost. SLED still has a need for their helicopters. One is large enough to carry members of their SWAT Team or special operations personnel. It is hard to justify the cost of a helicopter’s maintenance or a pilot's expenses at a county level.”


At this point in his career, Rozier was transferred into a supervisory position with the Lexington County Courthouse Security Detail by Sheriff Koon. This was too far removed from the field work he loved. “I realized I wasn’t happy anymore at the Sheriff’s Department and decided to take the job as the director of security for Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation. That business was growing, and it was exciting to have a hand in developing their security program.”


In each new position he took, Rozier gained more experience not only working with the public but also supervising younger officers that needed a natural, experienced leaders. They needed leaders that understood new recruits who had been called to careers in law enforcement, according to Rozier “Many wereoung people who were just beginning theri careers as public servants. They often needed an understanding leader that cared about them. They needed leadership that had their backs and helped them by sharing the benefit of years of experience.” Rozier continued by saying, “Most of the best law enforcement officers I know were simply born with common sense and a desire to serve others. I think that looking for those types of candidates again for the many open positions within the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department could solve a lot of the current manpower problems that plaque the department. I have nothing against candidates that have several years of college or full degrees, but I don’t think that a lack of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree should exclude anyone from working with the Sheriff’s Department in a many positions. As an officer progresses through the ranks and has a desire to move into a senior supervisory position, a degree may serve them well. It’s not always necessary but it could be a plus depending on the job they seek as their careers mature.”


Rozier has other ideas for improving the lack of manpower at the Sheriff’s Department. In his opinion, these manpower issues are at the root of many of the department’s shortcomings. “At one point, there was a vey effective Reserve Deputy Program at the department. These were people who worked regular jobs for a living but felt the calling to serve in law enforcement during their time off. They went through extensive training as does a full-time officer, but they did the work of those officers for free. These reserves saved Lexington County a great deal of money every year and augmented the staff when help was needed. That program needs to be revamped and considered again as a source of manpower.”


“I also believe that there are other sources of funds available that are being overlooked or under-utilized,” Rozier said. “There are grants for DUI enforcement that many departments around us use more extensively. For several years, the grants provide everything from new cruisers to salaries, uniforms, and equipment at no cost to the county. These funds pay to hire officers with a heart for DUI and traffic enforcement. That in and of itself is a special calling. Certainly, there are some strings attached as is the case with most grant money. The bottom line is the benefits outweigh the drawbacks in my view. We would have more well-trained deputies on the road looking for intoxicated drivers,” he reiterated. “This would make every citizen and their families safer when they travel in Lexington County.”

Rozier said that in his 42 years of service, a great deal has changed. “Let’s face the facts,” he said. “Today’s beginning officers want to be able to do their job, but they are a part of a younger generation. They look, dress, and act differently than I did in 1979.” He went on to say that younger officers want to be able to have tasteful tattoos on their arms without having to cover them with sleeves when they come to work. “A tight tattoo policy can eliminate many military veterans who want to continue to serve in their after-military lives.” They often want to wear neatly trimmed beards and mustaches too according to Rozier. “We’ve also learned from nationwide studies that a change in uniform from the dress style the department is using today to golf shirts, cargo pants, lace up boots, and an over the head tactical vest helps maintain and officers’ health throughout their career. “Tactical vest places more of a deputy’s equipment’s weight on their shoulders rather than their hips and lower backs. This is beneficial to their spines health and the department as they age. I certainly don’t want them to look like they are part of a paramilitary group, but I do want them to be comfortable, happy, and easily identified as a deputy when they come to work. I want them to look forward to doing their jobs every day.” He finished by saying, “When you need the help of a law enforcement officer, you don’t care if the deputy that responds has a neatly trimmed beard. You don’t ask how many years of college they attended or why they are wearing a tactical vest rather than a dressier uniform. What you do care about is that they showed up, listened to you, showed concern about what’s happened to you, and took further action to address the crime you are a victim of.”


In drawing the interview to a conclusion, Rozier said that the things that happened at the end of Sheriff Metts’ career certainly were inappropriate, however there are a few things that could be resurrected again. “Lexington County needs a Sheriff that speaks to its citizens wherever he’s eating lunch, at a school’s sporting events, and at festivals and parades and other functions. Whenever a citizen bumps into their Sheriff, they first need to recognize him. If they have an issue that concerns them, their Sheriff should be prepared to listen to them,” Rozier added. “They need to feel as if they’ve been heard.”


“The Sheriff also needs a more open relationship with the rank-and-file personnel that work for him. Of course, they need to be held accountable when mistakes are made but they also need to know they have a leader that will support them when they’re right. Only after our sworn and civilian personnel are happier doing their jobs and once again look forward to coming to work will the citizens of Lexington County begin to notice a change in the services they receive from the department.”


He went on to conclude that the current manpower problems aren’t the only ones facing the department nor is it all about money. “The current Lexington County Council has given this department a great starting salary. They are also running a $5,000 signing bonus and are still having major problems recruiting and retaining deputies. Our starting pay is one of if not the highest in the Midlands. There should be no reason we can’t keep deputies or have dozens of unfilled positions. There should be no need to have to mandate that all certified deputies pull shifts in the Detention Center. When deputies know and understand they have a Sheriff that has their backs and hears their concerns, they’ll want to come to work here. Working for the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department will once again be a source of great pride!”


“Likewise, when we have happy, fulfilled employees, the people of this Lexington County will begin to see and understand that they are cared for. When they’ve been wronged and dial 911, someone will show up that day. There will be a fast follow up if necessary and victims will be kept in the loop about the status of their cases,” he said.


“We won’t have Regions that are running just a few deputies per shift or have more affluent areas that get better services because of the household income of the residents. I don’t care if you live in a million-dollar mansion on the lake or a single-wide south of Swansea, as a citizen of Lexington County, you deserve the exact same services from your primary law enforcement agency. I am the man with the leadership skills, experience, and understanding to lead us into a situation, an agency we can all be proud of again. We’ll never return to the days when leadership was corrupted by power but we can return to the days when citizens countywide knew they could expect assistance if they were effected by crime.”


Rozier and his supporters have planned a Meet and Greet this Saturday, January 21st from 4 until 10 p.m. at The Grove on Augusta. The street address is 3152 Augusta Highway, Gilbert. They will be serving FREE bar-b-que plates and Toyoko Joe will provide the entertainment. If you are a citizen of Lexington County, you are asked and drop in and meet Garry Rozier. “I look forward to meeting with citizens who want to have a responsive law enforcement agency protecting them daily. If you don’t currently feel you’re getting what you deserve from the department we have now, come let me explain what we can do to change that together.”


If you can’t make the Meet and Greet this weekend, check out Rozier’s webpage at www.rozierforsheriff.com/ or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/garryrozier/.


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