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Orangeburg selects interim chief as city’s new police chief

Published: Jun. 12, 2022 at 11:00 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 12, 2022 at 6:31 PM EDT
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ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WCSC/WIS) - The first Black man to serve as police chief in the city of Columbia has been hired as the new director of the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety.

Charles Austin was named as the city’s new top cop at a Friday news conference. He has served as the interim chief since September when his predecessor, Mike Adams, stepped down after 35 years of service.

Austin said it is a joy to be “home.” Austin himself graduated from South Carolina State University and said his late wife was an Orangeburg native.

“Our children attended school here. We have friends here and family here, and so I have a vested stake in the well-being of the revitalization and economic development of the city of Orangeburg,” he said. “They want to know that we have the capabilities of providing police services and fire services that are second to none.”

The new chief stressed the importance of mutual respect between his officers and the community they serve.

“The first thing I will tell you is I have a zero-tolerance for excessive use of force. We came to serve and not to be served. We will in no way abuse the community that we serve mistreat or disrespect the community that we serve,” he said. “On the other side of that, I will not allow the community to disrespect or abuse our officers. It’s a mutual relationship and we will go into it with mutual respect.”

City Administrator Sidney Evering said the city is fortunate to have Austin, who has served as interim chief since September, agree to lead the department on a permanent basis, calling him “one of the most experienced and distinguished law enforcement professionals in the state,” WIS-TV reported.

“But beyond that, he is a servant-leader who cares immensely about our community and the officers he is charged to lead,” Evering said.

Austin’s background includes a 48-year career in service.

He previously served the City of Columbia as Deputy Chief of Police for Operations and eventually became the first African American Chief of Police for the city in 1990. In 2003, he became Columbia’s city manager, a job he held until he retired in 2009.

He also has served as deputy chief of police in Chatham County, Georgia; the director of public safety for South Carolina State University; a lieutenant with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division; and a patrol officer with the Easley and Greenville Police Departments.

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