‘Are you old enough to be a cop?’ Hartsville officer is Rookie of Year

Lance Cpl. Jessica Dellinger. PHOTO COURTESY HPD

By Bobby Bryant, Editor


Drivers stopped for DUI offer many excuses and justifications to try to avoid a ride to jail, but this is surely one of the best: You’re not old enough to arrest me. Lance Cpl. Jessica Dellinger of the Hartsville Police Department has heard that one. At 26, she’s one of the department’s youngest officers – “I believe I’m the second-youngest” – but DUI suspects sometimes think she’s even younger. “ ‘Are you old enough to be a cop? Are you old enough to be doing this?’ I’ve had people ask me if I was old enough to arrest them,” said Dellinger. One DUI suspect, a woman, thought she was 17. Dellinger, who specializes in DUI enforcement and traffic control for the Hartsville Police, recently was named 2020’s Rookie of the Year, a statewide honor, by the S.C. Department of Public Safety. The award cited her work in DUI enforcement. A North Carolina native who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Coker University in Hartsville, Dellinger is also a graduate of the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy. She said she began patrol work with the Hartsville Police in late 2019. Her first patrol duty was a night shift, during which she pulled over a DUI suspect at 4 a.m. Since then, Dellinger has made “14 or 15” DUI arrests and been involved in some way with scores of other DUI cases. She’s noticed some patterns. One is that most people don’t realize they’re as drunk as they really are. They didn’t drink “that much.” They thought they were OK to drive. Another is that drunken drivers are sensitive to how the law-enforcement officer treats them. They don’t like to be talked down to. Treat them with respect and it’s a lot easier. In a statement announcing Dellinger’s Rookie of the Year honor, the Hartsville Police Department said: “Her preparation for and dedication to public safety is one of the best HPD has ever seen.” Dellinger likes the Hartsville Police and she likes Hartsville. When she did an internship with the HPD during college, “It was like working with a family. Everyone’s so close.”

Author: Stephan Drew

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