PINE RIDGE, S.C. (WIS) - The Town of Pine Ridge is reeling in the wake of their entire police force resigning earlier this week.
Chief Vincent Silano resigned on Tuesday, followed by the other two part-time officers. His resignation marks the 9th officer, and fourth police chief to resign in the last three years.
Silano said in his letter of resignation that due to a barrage of negativity and backdoor politics from the mayor and his office, he decided to resign.
Many residents say they are heartbroken and are now calling for the Pine Ridge Mayor Robert Wells to resign.
“The mayor needs to go and we need to get our police department back in,” Pine Ridge Resident Judith Cooper said.
Residents said that the wave of police officers to resign since Mayor Wells took office is concerning and upsetting.
“If you’re causing them to leave, why? What are you doing? What’s going on here to cause our officers to feel like they aren’t safe working here?” Pine Ridge resident Jessie Sease said.
Silano also said in his letter of resignation that Mayor interjected himself in police matters, such as an investigation of a crime that occurred on the mayor’s street, calls for service, speed enforcement, and the arson of the patrol vehicle.
Town residents said they are heartbroken to see him go.
“I was recently broken into and Chief Silano was the first one to show up,” Sease said. “He was the one that helped ease me and my children’s minds and get us through that.”
“I couldn’t believe he lasted this long with putting up with what he had to put up with,” Cooper said. “He was wonderful, he knew when he was needed and he was willing to do what needed to be done. And also he was kind”
Councilwoman Beth Sturkie, who has been on the Pine Ridge Town Council for five years, said it’s part of a pattern.
“It seems like it’s an occurrence every six months,” Sturkie said. “Something always happens, and they are resigning.”
Sturkie said the Mayor appointed himself commissioner of the police force three years ago… and he’s currently part of the two-member public safety committee that reviews police matters. She said she would like to see the committee disbanded.
“I would like to know everything that’s going on, I want both sides. Not what one side tells us the other side said,” Sturkie said.
Residents said they are planning a protest at the now empty pine ridge police department, calling for the mayor’s resignation through a petition they have formed, and greater transparency from town officials.
“I hope that it shows that we’re serious and we really want things to change,” Sease said. “We want people to do their jobs right”
WIS reached out to the Mayor’s office for comment, his office released a statement saying there will be no open comment on internal personnel matters. The statement went on to say that the Town of Pine Ridge welcomes and will cooperate with any investigation into the recent events by the appropriate state agency. Town officials said that the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department will now be providing law enforcement services to the residents of Pine Ridge.