Colleton County sheriff remains on paid leave after certification suspended

VIDEO: Colleton County sheriff remains on paid leave after certification suspended

WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - The sheriff of Colleton County, who faces a criminal charge, remains on paid administrative leave in accordance with department policy, deputies say.

Sheriff R.A. Strickland was arrested on Nov. 9 on a charge of second-degree domestic violence in connection with an incident two days earlier. Agents with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division arrested Strickland and booked him into the Colleton County Detention Center, according to SLED spokesperson Tommy Crosby. He was released the same day on a personal recognizance bond.

An affidavit states that during an argument, Strickland assaulted the victim by “punching her in the face, with a closed fist, more than once, which caused moderate bodily injury.” Investigators also said the victim suffered a defensive injury to her arm in an attempt to protect her face.

Strickland physically took possession of the victim’s cell phones, “blocking her access to both cell phones, preventing her from reporting the incident or receiving emergency medical assistance,” the affidavit states.

Investigators say he also damaged the vehicle she attempted to flee in.

For the last seven years the great citizens of Colleton County have placed their trust in me. As Sheriff, out of love, and respect for my employees, and the citizens of Colleton County, I have placed myself on a leave of absence. Effective immediately. This is standard policy within our office.

Chief Deputy, Buddy Hill, is someone I’ve always placed great trust in. He will continue to provide due diligence to the citizens of our community during my absence. This time will allow me to heal, and self-reflect on myself. I will strive to be stronger, and better at serving the citizens of Colleton, and my employees upon returning.

Paid leave consistent with department policy, deputies say

Colleton County Sheriff’s Maj. J.W. Chapman released a statement Tuesday stating any employee of the sheriff’s office who has been formally charged with a crime or is being formally investigated in an alleged crime is subject to being placed on paid administrative leave.

“This has been the practiced policy under Sheriff R.A. Strickland since he took office in January of 2013,” Chapman said.

That is the same approach utilized by multiple law enforcement agencies all across the nation, he said.

The statement also reads in part:

Our Constitution provides that all individuals are “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law." To deprive an employee of their wages during an investigation, in Sheriff Strickland’s opinion, would be depriving one of their Constitutional rights. Therefore, in accordance to his own practiced policy, Sheriff Strickland placed himself on PAID administrative leave following the events of Nov. 9, 2019 - the same as he would with any other employee.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Training Council voted Monday to temporarily suspend Strickland’s certification until their cases are tried, according to South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy Maj. Florence McCants.

McCants said Strickland could still choose to return to duty before he is tried because as an elected official, he would not need an active certification to complete his term of office. If he were to be indicted on the charge, Gov. Henry McMaster could remove him from office, but the governor has no legal authority to remove him from office without an indictment.

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