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The rule of law

Notwithstanding apparent contradictions in headlines daily, there’s an old notion that no one is above the law — your majesty and his subjects, peasants and aristocrats are allegedly all subject to the law of the land.

One police chief recently learned the hard way that, at least in his case, that rings true.

Lacra Jenkins, the small-town chief of Springfield (an itty bitty place about 40 miles from Orangeburg), was arrested last month by South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agents who had been investigating him for nearly two years.

In 2015, Jenkins was fired from his job as an Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office captain amid allegations of pocketing money earned by other deputies who work off-duty assignments. He apparently went on to lead a department of two or three officers, including himself.

This Sidebar reporter opted, for time’s sake, to not employ his stellar investigative journalism skills in finding out just how a fired deputy under investigation by the state’s top law enforcement agency was able to wiggle into another uniform just a few miles from the scene of the alleged crime. But in speaking with an S.C. Criminal Justice Academy official in 2014 about another case, it was made clear that sometimes agencies fail to communicate, and sometimes small towns take what they can get, so to speak.

If convicted, the 39-year-old Jenkins faces a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. But the misdemeanor potentially carries a much stiffer collateral penalty — a mandatory career change.

Court records so far do not list an attorney for Jenkins, though it’s a safe bet he will retain counsel.

For here, so far, the rule of law exists. And its long arm stretches at least 40 miles.

Heath Hamacher

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