(Walhalla, SC)--------------------------------------As the current Chief Deputy of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office was thinking about a career, Kevin Davis thought about forestry management as a possible way to earn a living. When he began to look at the law enforcement side of his possible chosen career, he found something that interested him. Upon doing research, the future law enforcement officer and Chief Deputy found his calling.
“When I started taking classes (in law enforcement in college), I quickly realized that every day was not going to be the same, like on most jobs,” recalls Chief Deputy Davis. “You just don’t know what is going to happen each day, and there’s the excitement that comes along with it. Most importantly, you get to actually help make a difference if you do a good job and do it right and are in it for the right reasons.”
An Award Winner
Chief Deputy Davis began his law enforcement career in 1995 where, upon his graduation from Tri-County Technical College with an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice, he was hired by the Walhalla Police Department, two weeks after his graduation. After graduating from the Basic Law Enforcement Program at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy in Columbia, the Chief worked for the Walhalla Police Department before moving to the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office in 1997, where he worked in the Uniform Patrol Division.
Before he went to work for Walhalla PD, and upon his graduation from the Criminal Justice Academy in 1995, Chief Davis was awarded the J.P. Strom Award, which goes to the graduate of a particular class who had the highest overall academic average. Chief Davis credits the study habits he learned while a student at Tri-County Tech, and his love for learning about the law, as major reasons why he was able to do well in his studies at the Criminal Justice Academy and beyond.
“Obviously, just getting out of college like that I already had study habits down but I always was interested in the actual South Carolina state law,” says Chief Davis. “I was able to study and retain it pretty well. And that served me well through the years as being able to have a general understanding (of the law) to help other officers and help myself get through situations knowing what I was legally allowed to do and what I couldn’t.”
Money was not the main consideration for Chief Davis when he became a law enforcement officer. In fact, when he first began his career at Walhalla PD, his starting salary was $16,400 a year. A move to the Sheriff’s Office two years later saw an increase in his salary, up to $18,000 a year.
Chief Davis was the Alpha Shift Sergeant for the Uniform Patrol Division until 2013, where newly elected Sheriff Mike Crenshaw selected Davis to be the new Chief Deputy for the agency.
The Job of the Chief Deputy
As the second highest ranked law enforcement officer at the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office (behind only Sheriff Mike Crenshaw), the Chief Deputy’s position carries a lot of responsibility and a lot of duties, which entails keeping the lines of communication open with others on the command staff.
“The things that a Chief Deputy has to do is to communicate everyday with Captain’s in the other divisions to see how their divisions are running and to make sure things are going smooth,” according to Chief Davis. “There is also the reviewing of cases and what’s happened from day to day to make sure if there are any new directions to go out. Plus, maintaining budgets and making sure that we are staying within out budgets that are allocated to us from County Council.”
Besides the overall Sheriff’s Office budget, there are separate budgets for the Oconee County Detention Center, for the E-911/Communications Center and for Oconee County Animal Control, which Chief Davis also has to keep an eye on in order to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars as those budgets are separated out in efforts to reduce overspending. A part of the budget for both dispatch and the jail also comes from the state, along with money allocated from County Council in the overall budget.
Another huge responsibility for Chief Deputy Davis concerns policy and procedures. A law enforcement agency’s policies and procedures are important for setting guidelines for conduct of law enforcement officers that are employed with that agency in determining what is appropriate behavior and conduct in the performance of their duties. Chief Davis says that working on policies and procedures is an ongoing commitment, as well as handling internal affairs investigations.
“I work on and maintain the policy and procedures to make sure they are up to date,” says Chief Deputy Davis. “We just got through spending probably two years reviewing and going through all of them. There always seems to be something that has to be tweaked on policies and procedures when something comes up that we did not foresee or if the law changes. I also handle internal affairs issues for the entire Sheriff’s Office which includes all of the divisions. I assign people to investigate and we do have a board consisting of the command staff (the Sheriff, the Chief Deputy and the Captains for each of the Divisions) that if an officer issue rises to the level of a suspension, or higher, we convene the board to discuss and make a decision as far as internal affairs type situations.”
Training Deputies and Family Support
One of the most proudest achievements that Chief Davis points out from his career is his work as an instructor for the Sheriff’s Office. In fact, Chief Davis was the first Defensive Tactics instructor for the Sheriff’s Office and the first to earn a certification in the instruction of use of force situations. The requirements and certification process to become an instructor does require officers to be away from home, and the Chief is grateful for the support of his wife in order to make this achievement possible.
“I started going in 1998 or 1999 (to the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy in Columbia to become a certified instructor). I became an instructor in every use of force and how to train officers on every type of force, how to use it and when not to use it,” says Chief Deputy Davis. “If I had not been appointed Chief Deputy, my goal was to continue to go into training.
The Defensive Tactics involves proper safety and usage of a firearm, knife defense, ground defense, defensive tactics and the use of a Taser. Chief Davis had to be recertified at the Criminal Justice Academy every three years, plus, as a member of the S.W.A.T. team as the Chemical Munitions deputy, the Chief was required to attend classes across the Eastern United States to learn how to properly use Chemical Munitions. Once again, the Chief points out how important the support of his faith and family were to fulfilling his dreams of a great career as a law enforcement officer.
“I couldn’t have done without my wife of almost 22 years. She could have told me ‘no, that you are not going off to all of these schools over the years.’ She hung in there,” recalls Chief Davis. “I am a devout Christian too, which has helped me to get through stuff. When you truly believe and you believe that the Lord is with you, when you go into bad situations, you see bad things and you feel bad, but, you have a peace of mind and a peace of heart that you were taken care of if something bad happened, and that God has a plan no matter how bad things looks.”