Police investigate 'confrontation' between 2 S.C. jail employees, 1 suspended

The incident, which occurred at the jail, was between a major and a lower-ranking officer

By Jake Shore
The Island Packet 
BEAUFORT, S.C. — Police are investigating what is described as a "confrontation" Friday between two Beaufort County Detention Center employees, one a high-ranking officer.

The incident occurred inside the jail at 3:15 p.m., according to Beaufort Police Department spokesperson George Erdel.

There were no reported injuries.

The incident was between a major, who is a high-ranking official, and a lower-ranking officer at the jail, said Chris Ophardt, a spokesperson for Beaufort County. The major has been suspended pending the internal investigation, while the officer has returned to work, he said.

In response to the incident, Ophardt said it is a stressful time in law enforcement because "staffing shortages and COVID-19 protocols have made an already difficult job even harder,"

The Beaufort County Detention Center is down about 20 correctional officers, which is close to a quarter of its total staff of 89. In June, the county council gave a salary adjustment to benefit officers who worked 12-hour shifts to help with the staff shortage.

Phil Foot, assistant county administrator for public safety, declined to explain more about what occurred, saying it was a personnel matter.

He said he expects there to be an internal investigation into the employees and what happened.

Foot declined to comment on what the confrontation was about.

"It's handled just like any other employee matter," Foot said. "Our HR (human resources) is involved in it just like any other employee dispute."

The jail is next door to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, which would typically investigate an incident at the jail.

However, the Sheriff's Office opted out due to a conflict of interest and turned the investigation over to Beaufort Police because the incident involved county employees, said Erdel.

The incident was reported on Sunday and Beaufort Police received the case Monday, he said.

"The detention center leaders have encouraged officers to use the Employee Assistance Program to assist with things like behavioral health," Ophardt said. "Detention center leadership will handle this incident appropriately and professionally."

No other details were immediately available.

(c)2022 The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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