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Several hundred motorcycles roared through York County on Saturday headed for the same destination with the same goal: Raise as much money as possible for families of law enforcement officers hurt or killed on duty.
It was the third annual Thin Blue Line Ride in which bikers from around the region and beyond gathered in Rock Hill.
The ride, put on by The Forever Blue Foundation and The April Five Organization, took bikers on an hour-long drive to Matthews, N.C., where they celebrated with a party.
York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant was named last week as S.C. Sheriff of the Year for 2008 by the S.C. Sheriffs’ Association. The 57-year-old Republican was first elected in 1996.He is unopposed this year in his bid for a fourth term as sheriff. He won praise for pursuing new strategies on illegal immigration and equipping deputies with better technology. He spoke with The Herald about his award.
The Alive @ 25 program was mentioned in your nomination. Why has it been successful?
“It targets kids 16 to 25 years old. These classes are put on by law enforcement officers who have been trained. It talks to these kids about what to do to stay safe. It lets the kids get involved in open discussions.
“There are even schools in the state, down in Lexington County, where the only way you can drive a vehicle to school is to go through the course. We don’t have that yet, but our local schools are working on that. I’d be supportive of it.”
You’re a big supporter of the 287(g) program, which helps identify and process illegal immigrants arrested for crimes. What’s your advice to other sheriffs?
“The other sheriffs in the state, many of them want the program, but they can’t get it because the federal government has not properly funded it. We’re asking Congress to get on board. The community and the public should cry out to their representatives and encourage them to find funding. It’s at least a way that we can do something about illegal aliens being here in this country.”
What’s the next major initiative you plan to bring to York County?
“In the next couple of months … working through (national) accreditation. We’re getting ready to be tested. That’s going to be quite an honor. In 30 days, we’ll have the answer.”
How has law enforcement changed during your career?
“I started in the city of York as a fireman and dispatcher. The day I turned 21 was the first day I was officially a police officer, on the beat. The only air conditioning I had was rolling down the windows. We had nightsticks and black jacks. We had five- and six-shot revolvers.
“My first crime scene, we had an old camera we had to put a big flashbulb in. Now, all my officers walk around with digital cameras. The way things have changed, it is just phenomenal.”
Any thoughts of retirement?
“I’m only 57 years old. I’ve got 37 years in. I’m just not ready to hang it up. Let’s put in another term and look at it. I love what I do, and I love serving the people.”