Washington ends double duty to focus on law enforcement
By Bobby Bryant
After 18 months of supervising the city of Darlington’s police and fire departments, Public Safety Director Kelvin Washington has decided to put down one of his two jobs.
Effective June 30, Washington has stepped down from his supervisory duties at the Darlington Fire Department. He remains the city’s police chief and plans to focus entirely on law enforcement, as he did before being named public safety director in January 2019. Pat Cavanaugh will remain the city’s fire chief.
“I feel the need to spend more time strengthening our relationship between our Police Department and our community,” Washington said in a June 3 letter to City Manager Howard Garland.
In the letter, not made available to news media until City Council’s July 7 meeting, Washington said he expected to face “greater law-enforcement demands” as a result of “ongoing activities around our country pertaining to policing and our profession.”
Washington praised Cavanaugh for his leadership of the Fire Department, calling him a “hard-working, motivated, committed fire chief (who) is more than capable of continuing to move the Fire Department forward without my oversight.”
Darlington City Council created the position of public safety director 18 months ago when council members appointed Washington to the post. The action was taken in executive session and council never explained publicly why Washington was given supervision of the Fire Department, saying it involved a “personnel matter” that was legally confidential.
In his letter to Garland, Washington noted that he took on the added responsibilities of public safety director “with no request for a salary increase.”
“I believe wholeheartedly that public-safety officers throughout our country are not paid what they are worth and are certainly not paid for what they risk day in and day out,” Washington said in his letter. He said he is so concerned about “the inadequacy of pay for first responders” that he is asking the city to distribute his “cost of living adjustment,” the 2 percent raise all city employees will receive in the 2020-21 fiscal year, “to the six lowest-paid firemen at our Fire Department.”
“I know and realize that this amount of money hardly comes near their actual worth, but I feel it is the least that I can do for our people who give so much of themselves,” Washington wrote.
City Council did not mention Washington’s job change during its July 7 meeting. City Manager Garland noted in his monthly report to council that Washington also needed more time to focus on “his new role as president of the South Carolina Police Chiefs Association.”