January 9 is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, and DHEC wants to take a moment to honor all of the employees that serve in this role.
“Protecting our citizens’ health and the environment from those who will intentionally do harm is the primary mission of our DHEC Law Enforcement programs,” said Michael Tempel, DHEC Chief of Office of Law Enforcement for Environmental Affairs and Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee Chairman. “Our officers and support staff work tirelessly to make sure our citizens are safe and violators are held accountable. I appreciate all their efforts and am proud to serve with them all.”
The agency has three law enforcement units:
- Bureau of Drug Control
- Office of Criminal Investigation
- Shellfish Sanitation Program
Bureau of Drug Control (BDC)
DHEC’s Bureau of Drug Control (BDC) serves a regulatory role as well as provides enforcement of the South Carolina Controlled Substances Act. Our BDC inspections are pharmacists who have undergone additional training through the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy to become state law enforcement officers.
They conduct onsite inspections and audits of pharmacies, hospitals and practitioners to make sure they are properly recording, storing and handling controlled substances. These important members of our Health Regulation team make recommendations and offer assistance to help these entities follow proper procedures in handling these medications.
BDC inspectors respond to complaints and concerns reported to DHEC that sometimes indicate criminal activity or misuse of controlled substances. When warranted, they also make arrests.
In 2019, DHEC’s BDC had approximately 28,000 controlled substance registrants, and the drug inspectors typically conduct 750 to 850 annual inspections. DHEC’s inspectors work closely with local law enforcement, the DEA, and the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation in their ongoing fight against the misuse of controlled substances.
Office of Criminal Investigation (OCI)
The three-person Office of Criminal Investigation (OCI) team is responsible for investigating grossly negligent, willful and knowing violations of state and federal environmental criminal laws.
Investigations generally involve criminal violations of:
- the Hazardous Waste Management Act,
- Pollution Control Act,
- Solid Waste Policy and Management Act,
- State Safe Drinking Water Act,
- Infectious Waste Management Act
- and other general and related crimes.
Frequently, other crimes are uncovered during the investigation of environmental crimes, such as complex conspiracies, fraudulent schemes, and falsification of documents. OCI works closely with state and federal prosecutors to bring those responsible for all of these crimes to justice.
Shellfish Sanitation Program
The Shellfish Sanitation Program is a health and environmental protection program with three major responsibilities:
- classification of the waters used for the growing and cultivating of molluscan shellfish,
- certification and inspection of facilities that process and
- distribution of shellfish and the patrol of those areas that are determined to be unsuitable for the harvesting of shellfish.
The 10-officer team primarily operates in the state’s coastal counties but conducts operations as needed throughout the state.
The DHEC Shellfish Sanitation officers also work closely with counterparts in the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Much of their work is performed outside of regular office hours on the coastal waters of the state.
Whether on the drug enforcement or members of our environmental affairs team, the officers that make up these three DHEC units Embrace Service and show Leadership and Collaboration. Thank you again for helping to promote and protect the safety and health of our communities.