Documents detail complaints vs RW chief

RIDGEWAY—Police Chief Christopher Culp has been the subject of at least 15 formal complaints from Ridgeway residents and businesses in the past 12 months, according to documents obtained by The Voice.

Dating back to July 2017, the complaints that nearly cost Culp his job provide a more detailed look into what drove Ridgeway Town Council to consider terminating him.

A motion to immediately terminate Culp failed at the June 14 council meeting when a motion to fire him never received a second.

Instead, the council opted to work with Culp in addressing the complaints following a 90-minute discussion about them in executive session June 14.

“We do have some underlying issues with the police department, and we’re going to correct those issues,” Ridgeway Mayor Heath Cookendorfer said following the vote.

Obtained through the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, the documents paint a picture of absenteeism, indifference and other breaches of protocol by the chief.

Documents dispute SRO claim

At a packed council meeting June 14, some residents claimed council members targeted the chief because they thought he spent too much time at Geiger Elementary School, which doesn’t have a school resource officer.

Council documents included with the June 14 meeting agenda stated that during the month of May, Culp performed 22 security checks at Geiger Elementary, or about once every 1.4 days.

Culp’s supporters said they didn’t mind the chief doubling as a de facto SRO, even though he’s not technically certified to act as one, according to the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy.

“You’ve done everything except for what you are elected to do,” said Tiffany Allison, chairwoman of the Geiger Elementary School Improvement Council, to Council. “You have put children in danger because of your actions. You should restore the trust that has been broken.”

Betty Branham, however, told The Voice that Culp spends too much time at the school.

“If he wants to help school children, he needs to get busy on Coleman St. A child is going to get hurt the way the traffic races up and down this road. I live on the corner of Coleman and Third, and it’s amazing what’s being ignored out here. I only see the police car parked down at the station down from the school. Mr. Culp is never in it. Where does he go all day long, do tell?”

Complaints obtained by The Voice, however, list a litany of other complaints unrelated to the SRO issue.

One complaint filed Jan. 8 said a traffic ticket was unlawfully issued long after the offense occurred.

“Culp came to residence, honking horn, to issue ticket of parking wrong side,” the document states.

A similar report stated that Culp showed up in an unmarked car in an attempt to issue a parking ticket.

“He came to my house to issue a ticket and beat excessively on the door to the extent of scaring my mother in law,” the report said.

Another complaint filed Jan. 11 asked why a theft that occurred Nov. 27, 2017 hadn’t been investigated. The complaint noted that security cameras in the area no longer showed the date of the incident.

An undated complaint included in town documents said Culp never issued any tickets when a resident reported dogs running loose in the street.

“He asked if I was afraid of the dog at town hall? Then I shouldn’t worry about my neighbor,” the form states. “I tried to explain that the dog at town hall was well behaved and behind a locked door and my neighbors [sic] dogs were running loose.”

Suspicious person overlooked

“I find his attitude lackadaisical, unprofessional, and not very caring about protecting the town,” one complaint stated.

Those remarks appeared in a July 2017 letter signed by Carol Allen, owner of Laura’s Tea Room.

In her complaint, Allen said Culp failed to investigate a suspicious person who “camped out” in front of her business, using an electrical outlet to charge his cellphone.

According to the complaint, Culp stated he was too busy to investigate the man.

Allen eventually asked the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office about the suspicious person. Deputies were familiar with the man and when they tried to speak with him, he took off running, the complaint stated.

Deputies caught the man and took him into custody. He had multiple outstanding warrants for breaking and entering, and also had several pill bottles in other people’s names on his person, according to the complaint.

“I feel we pay Officer Culp to serve and protect, and I understand he is just one officer, but I really feel he did not handle this correctly,” Allen stated in the complaint.

Hard to find

A complaint filed May 1 stated Fairfield County investigators were unable to contact Culp to review tapes at the police department.

One week later, a complaint was filed that said Culp canceled a Feb. 7 meeting due to a family emergency, and couldn’t reschedule for two days later. Culp, however, clocked in from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 8-10, the complaint states.

“Tried numerous times and when did reach Culp [he] said he didn’t have time and would call when convenient for him,” the complaint said. “It’s been 3 months and monitoring visit must be done.”

Other complaints the town received were critical of Culp’s apparent lack of responsiveness.

A complaint filed Jan. 28 states a person ticketed for an unknown violation appeared for court on Oct. 2, 2017, but Culp was absent. The document states Culp didn’t turn in the ticket until Oct. 11.

According to the complaint, the person stopped by court on Nov. 29, 2017 so Culp could rewrite the ticket, but the chief wasn’t working. The person also tried unsuccessfully to call Culp on Jan. 28, 2018, the document stated.

“[Three] visits no results,” the form said. “Requested jury trial.”

The court complaint is in addition to one that Municipal Judge Adrian Wilkes filed June 14, the day before Ridgeway Town Council considered a motion to fire the chief.

Wilkes stated in his complaint that Culp frequently and openly questions the judge in open court.

“Chief Culp has shown a lack of manners, professionalism, and respect for the Court,” Wilkes wrote. “He has consistently attempted to speak over and interrupt myself and others within the court room.”

Culp also called in sick for court with only 10 minutes of notice, resulting in a slew of not guilty pleas, the complaint stated.


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