Crime & Public Safety

Bluffton safety committee has new mission

After years of uncertainty about its role, a public-safety committee of Bluffton residents will meet Wednesday with a new purpose.

The meeting is the first since Bluffton Town Council established the Public Safety Citizens Committee in March, adopting a resolution outlining responsibilities for the seven-member panel.

Although the committee has met informally since October 2010, members said they were unclear about its direction.

The arrival of new Police Chief Joey Reynolds has changed that, committee members say.

"This chief is so gung-ho about (the committee), and we're really looking forward to working with him," Kelli Normoyle said.

Established in 1999, the committee was disbanded in 2008 after former Mayor Hank Johnston left office and current Mayor Lisa Sulka was elected. It was revived in 2010, when Town Council appointed six members to advise the police department about residents' concerns, but the group was not formally recognized as part of town government.

The group had a presence at events such as Mayfest, yet members were "more or less feeling our way to find out what our role was" during Police Chief David McAllister's tenure, according to Buck Island/Simmonsville neighborhood representative Sharon Brown.

With Reynolds's arrival in September, the committee began seeking formal recognition from the town, Brown said.

Reynolds has made community policing a priority for his department and has been enthusiastic about using the panel as part of that mission, member Normoyle said.

According to its new resolution, the committee is to bring public-safety concerns to the police department, Bluffton Township Fire District and Town Council by engaging property and homeowners' associations, business groups and other organizations. It will also create an education program and participate in events such as National Night Out and neighborhood watches.

More goals will be outlined at the Wednesday meeting. The group is also seeking an at-large member.

Committee members are required to participate in a Bluffton Police Academy. The police department hopes to launch the academy this year, Capt. Angela McCall-Tanner said in an email.

McCall-Tanner said ideas for other future projects will be discussed at the meeting Wednesday.

"We will be looking to this group for feedback from the community about current public-safety concerns," McCall-Tanner wrote. "We also hope to use this group as an outreach tool to help educate the community about what we do, why we do it and how we need to partner with the community in order to be successful."

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