The city of Simpsonville has offered the job of Chief of Police to Keith Grounsell, the current Chief Investigator for the 13th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office. The conditional offer of employment was based on the successful completion of a polygraph, psychological examination, drug test and physical. As of September 6, 2012, all phases had been completed by Grounsell and the city was still awaiting the results on one of the examinations. Not expecting any hang ups by such an experienced lawman as Grounsell, the city has set the date of September 18, 2012, for him to be sworn into office.
After an extensive search and selection process the Simpsonville Police Department has a new Chief, Keith Grounsell
The Chief of Police selection process began with an advertisement that cast a net of candidates from across the nation. Forty-nine persons responded and applied for the position. According to Mayor Perry Eichor, the selection process was done on a blind scoring basis. Without revealing the names of the candidates, each candidate was given a numeric score by Council based upon the prerequisite requirements, education, law enforcement experience and accomplishments. It was said that by using this selection method, the politics would be taken out of the process. The 49 applicants were narrowed down to the top five finalists with the highest scores. Each finalist was then interviewed by City Council and the Mayor. This newspaper also conducted individual interviews with the finalist and reported the information in its August edition. Each of the finalists had noteworthy qualities about them and appeared to have the ability to run the Simpsonville Police Department. What needed to be done next was to determine which candidate would be the best fit for the department and the direction that Council intended it to go.
As the final process worked its way down, candidates were considered on their scores during the first interview. Word got out that City Council had requested two candidates to come back for a second interview. There was no mention of the other three candidates having a second interview scheduled. Only Keith Grounsell and Colleen O’Neil were notified that they had to come back for another interview. This brought some confusion to the other three candidates, who heard through unofficial means that two of the other candidates were called back. This led the other three candidates to believe that they would no longer be considered for the position, although this was not what they were told through official channels.
A strong Council/weak Mayor form of government, which Simpsonville has, is all about passing around ideas. The Council members and Mayor sit at a table and discuss the issues. In this case, they discuss who they want to be the next Police Chief and why. They listen to one another state their argument for a candidate, make comments and ultimately they each cast a vote. At the conclusion of the September 28, 2012, City Council meeting, they went into an executive session. At the conclusion of the executive session, City Attorney David Holmes proclaimed that no vote was taken in executive session. It was their intention to vote publically for the next Chief of Police. The City Attorney suggested that each Council person be given a ballot to cast their vote. Each ballot contained that names of the finalist, which was narrowed down to four, since Michael Hamilton, a Captain with the Fountain Inn Police Department, had withdrawn his application. The Council and Mayor made their selection on the ballot and it was passed to the City Clerk and the City Attorney. After the ballots were tabulated, the City Attorney said “this council has chosen to offer the position of Police Chief to Keith Grounsell.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Grounsell said he was “optimistic that he would be able to take the police department to the next level and make them one of the top agencies in the state. Although it will not happen overnight, changes will take place that will make the officers happier and in turn result in more customer satisfaction.” When asked how he felt about taking over an agency that had a recent history of low morale and high turnover, Grounsell refused to comment about the previous administration of the Simpsonville Police Department. He said, “I will listen to the officers because they are the most knowledgeable about what the department needs. They are the one’s with boots on the ground knowledge of what’s going on out in the streets. Addressing the immediate needs of the officers, as long as they are reasonable and not an undue burden on the tax payers, can go a long way to increase moral”, Grounsell said.
Grounsell said, “I will be holding the officers to a higher standard. I will set the bar high for the officers to make them better men and women both on and off duty. My relationship with the surrounding law enforcement agencies and the Solicitor’s Office will come into play rather quickly. We will work much more closely with these agencies and put together stronger cases to be prosecuted by the Solicitor’s office. My experience as an Investigator and working at the Solicitor’s Office gives me a better understanding of the shortfalls seen in cases sent up for prosecution. At the bare minimum, I can ensure that our agency makes better quality cases by making sure the supervisors hold the officers accountable. I will also have more training opportunities for the officers.”
Grounsell’s experience working at the city, county, state, federal and international levels would be hard for any candidate to match, which we can assume was a primary reason that he was chosen as the next top cop in Simpsonville. When asked whether or not he knew who voted for whom, he stated that it did not matter to him. Grounsell said, “What matters is that I was chosen by a majority of Council. I am going to work with the existing Council and Mayor, through the City Administrator, to make the police department a more professional agency.”
Grounsell explained that his primary focus will be on drug enforcement and community oriented policing. He further stated that an overwhelming majority of all crime is linked to drug in some way, shape or form. Not to mention that he understands that working with the community only puts that many extra sets of eyes and ears out there to report possible crimes.