Community activists call for reinstatement of fired chief deputy

Published: Apr. 8, 2022 at 3:43 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2022 at 10:25 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Representatives from the United Black Men of Charleston County called for the reinstatement of Joyce Smith at the Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston on Friday.

Up until last week, she had been second in command at the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.

“We stand with Joyce because this is a gross injustice,” Louis Smith said. “We stand with her because we want her to be back at her job doing what she likes to do, which is taking care of the community.”

The Sheriff’s Office terminated Smith for unpaid student loans, according to documents obtained by Live 5 News.

Smith served with the North Charleston Police Department for nearly 25 years before taking a job with the Sheriff’s Office under the newly-elected Sheriff Kristen Graziano.

“She don’t deserve to lose her job,” Jerome Heyward said. “For all the service she put in the community. She’s been on the front line with us. Feeding the community. She had her troops on the line. She had everything on the line she could do. And this is what she deserves?”

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Andrew Knapp declined to comment, citing the office had already released public records regarding the situation.

The United Black Men of Charleston County pointed out what they believe to be questionable previous decisions of the department, including the delay of the firing of the deputies involved in the death of Jamal Sutherland and the resignation of an officer reportedly accused of sexual harassment in lieu of termination.

“This is how it looks, murders is okay, sexual predators is okay, but if you owe student loans, that’s where you draw the line, and you’ve got to go,” Elvin Speights said.

“What we want is peace,” Heyward said. “We’re hoping that [Graziano] comes to her senses over the weekend. Why are you doing this to somebody? What’s the real reason behind this? All we’re asking you to do is come to the table and be sensible about this and do the right thing.”

Joyce Smith was notably absent from Friday’s gathering. Heyward clarified that she had not been a part of the news conference called. Her lawyer declined to comment for this story.

A second news conference was also called later in the day to discuss the firing of Smith by the Stand As One, Pastor Thomas Dixon and others. There Justin Hunt of Stand as One claimed the lack of empathy shown towards Smith highlights a small part of a larger issue.

A Charleston-based employment attorney says it’s uncommon for the state’s law regarding student loans to lead to the firing of Smith last week.

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