Beaufort News

Sheriff, solicitor win state GOP awards

Beaufort County's sheriff and its top prosecutor have been recognized by the state Republican Party for initiatives that enforce federal immigration laws and keep violent, repeat offenders off the streets.

Sheriff P.J. Tanner and Solicitor Duffie Stone were presented with Outstanding Local Government Official awards Saturday during the S.C. Republican Party Convention in Columbia.

Tanner was honored for his "287(g) task force," seven deputies trained to enforce federal immigration laws and carry out immigration-related investigations.

Stone was recognized for creating the Career Criminal Prosecution Team in 2008, which has been credited with helping to end overcrowding at the county jail by bringing repeat offenders to trial faster. Stone says the Career Criminal Prosecution Team won convictions against 54 of 57 defendants in 2009 and 43 of 47 last year.

The GOP award is rarely shared, but party members decided to nominate both men because their initiatives have made residents safer, according to Beaufort County Republican Party spokesman Ken George.

The sheriff's task force has the authority to identify the status of jail inmates and investigate companies that county auditors suspect of hiring illegal immigrants. But it spends most of its time investigating crimes believed to have been committed by suspected illegal immigrants.

The Sheriff's Office is the only law-enforcement agency in the state to participate in the federal training program, Tanner said.

"We're not reliant on the federal government to do the job," he said. "The team gives us an edge when we're working on any investigation. It speeds up investigations and helps us move illegal immigrants out of the jail to holding facilities more quickly."