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A former SLED agent feels like he’s come home with his latest assignment.
Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile announced a few weeks ago that David Belk would become a major and his chief deputy at the department.
That means wearing a uniform again. No big deal, Belk says.
“I like the uniform,” Belk said. “I wore it in the Army, and I wore it when I was here.”
Belk, a 1979 graduate of Lancaster High School, served in the U.S. Army as a military police officer before working for the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office starting in 1987. He was hired under Sheriff Williford Faile, Barry Faile’s father. Belk first worked courtroom security before becoming a patrol deputy.
Belk later worked as a local DARE officer, and expanded the anti-drug program to the county’s middle and high schools. He later was on a state DARE training team and traveled internationally to train foreign officers on how to present the program in their schools.
When he went to work for the State Law Enforcement Division, Belk started out in the child fatalities unit, which included three people, including the secretary.
The division later combined with SLED’s special victims unit, which also investigates vulnerable adult fatalities, abuse, neglect and exploitation.
“It’s a broad spectrum of things to do,” Belk said. “I set up a new unit from scratch.”
It was a tough decision to leave SLED, Belk said.
“SLED’s been good to me,” he said.
But at the same time, Belk is happy about coming home to work again. He never moved to Columbia during his time with SLED, and continued to live in Lancaster County with his wife, Leigh Ann, and sons, David and Dustin, who are students at Lancaster High School.
It’s different being back home, with the biggest changes being the growth in the county, and the growth at the sheriff’s office.
Belk was first assigned to patrol Indian Land when he worked at the sheriff’s office years ago. Then it meant he had to bring a snack with him for the night shift.
“If you wanted a soda and a pack of crackers, you either had to bring it with you, or you’d have to drive all the way back to Lancaster,” Belk said.
When Belk was a patrol deputy, there were six officers per shift working. Now there are up to 12 deputies working at once.
The sheriff’s office has grown out of its quarters on Pageland Highway, Belk said.
“There’s people sitting on top of people – we’ve outgrown this facility,” Belk said.
Not a lot Faile or Belk can do about that right now with no money to build a new sheriff’s office, but they want to make positive changes in how the public perceives the sheriff’s office and its deputies.
Faile and Belk plan to lead the department to state accreditation within a year.
This means officers will follow set policies and procedures, which Faile and Belk want to lead to more professionalism within the agency, and hopefully improved morale among the officers. Receiving state accreditation can also aid in the sheriff’s office’s attempts to land grants.
“He (Belk) has contacts through the state that will benefit the sheriff’s office,” Faile said. “He has grant writing, budget and supervision experience. He knew my agenda and I felt like he could help get it through.”
Belk will be responsible for day-to-day operations for the sheriff’s office, and will oversee the department’s support division, which includes judicial services, training, crime prevention, accreditation and school resource officers.
Accreditation is something every law enforcement agency should strive for, Belk said. He looks forward to working toward new goals.
“My goals mirror the sheriff’s goals,” Belk said. “I like what the sheriff has planned for the agency. I wanted to be part of it. We can reach the sheriff’s goals. It’s just going to take some time.”
Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at email@example.com or at (803) 283-1151