- Associated Press - Sunday, October 2, 2016

SUMTER, S.C. (AP) - Before the establishment of South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy and Miranda vs. Arizona, life as a Sumter County Sheriff’s Office deputy was very different compared to today.

Former sheriff Tommy Mims, the 103rd deputy to join the agency, was sworn in in September 1965 at 25 years old.

He said his first bit of training came from Sheriff Ira Byrd Parnell, who told him to use common sense, keep his nose clean and do his very best before sending him out to start working.

Vic Jones, former public safety director for Sumter, became a deputy at 21 years old in late 1966.

After he was sworn in, Sheriff Parnell told Jones to carry his pistol, a .367 Magnum, on his belt and to keep his personal shotgun in his vehicle.

Jones was later told to go to Reliable Pawn to find a badge with the word “deputy” on it. He purchased a small badge for $2.90. He also continued to wear civilian clothes for a while after he was sworn in.

Officers were later instructed to attend courses called Crime to Court, but there was no criminal justice academy, Jones said.

It was a different time, Mims said.

Back then, deputies had to buy and furnish their own vehicles, he said. The vehicles were equipped with two-way radios with two channels, antennas about 8 feet long and handheld spotlights, he said.

Jones said deputies were given $75 for gas, vehicle maintenance and insurance. That money went by pretty quickly when officers had to chase suspects, he said.

He said deputies had a lot of investigations involving moonshine traffickers.

When Mims and Jones first joined the sheriff’s office, there were only about 14 deputies, making community policing difficult.

And there were only two night-shift deputies, Mims said.

“There was no such thing as a 40-hour work week,” he said.

Jones said deputies mostly responded to calls and worked until the calls slowed down.

Deputies usually went home about 1 or 2 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays after coming in about 8 a.m., Mims said.

Despite the limited number of officers, he said there seemed to be more mutual trust between residents and law enforcement.

Having such few deputies spread out over a great distance also meant that officers sometimes could not reach each other on the radio.

Mims recalled his first stakeout when he had to take a suspect with him to a civilian’s house to use a phone because he could not reach dispatch on the radio.

Modern radios have multiple channels and allow members of different emergency agencies to communicate, he said.

According to Mims, Jones has said before that those were primitive times back then when officers carried nightsticks.

With the majority of deputies responding to calls throughout the entire county, Jones said using physical force was not the best option because backup was not close by.

“I developed a philosophy that I would talk people into handcuffs,” he said.

Jones said his first call was to respond to a woman who threatened to shoot a man. He said he was unsure how to handle the situation because the woman actually showed up with a weapon.

Jones was able to convince the woman to put down her firearm without any issues.

The public was more willing to comply with officers, and most people cooperated, Mims said.

Even though officers did not have as many resources 50 years ago available like officers today, Mims and Jones were able to smile as they looked back fondly on their experiences.

“It was a good time,” Jones said.


Information from: The Sumter Item, https://www.theitem.com

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