January 9, 2023, is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, and we’re taking the opportunity to recognize our law enforcement agents that work to stop the diversion and abuse of controlled substances and protect our state’s environment. DHEC thanks these men and women for the dedication, service and commitment to the rule of law they display every day.
The agency has two law enforcement units:
- Healthcare Quality, Bureau of Drug Control
- Environmental Affairs, Office of Law Enforcement
Healthcare Quality Bureau of Drug Control
DHEC’s Bureau of Drug Control (BDC) serves a regulatory role as well as provides enforcement of the South Carolina Controlled Substances Act. These agents 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 Healthcare Quality team make recommendations and 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 2022, Drug Control agents:
- Opened 542 criminal incidents and 518 civil incidents
- Of those investigations, 148 involved healthcare practitioners
- Conducted regulatory inspections and
- And conducted 135 controlled substance accountability audits.
Agents work closely with local law enforcement, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation in their ongoing fight against the misuse of controlled substances.
Environmental Affairs Office of Law Enforcement
Officers and Investigators assigned to the Office of Law Enforcement are certified by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy as Class 1 Police Officers commissioned by SLED with statewide jurisdiction to conduct investigations, carry firearms, make arrests and execute and serve search warrants to gather evidence of these crimes.
Special Investigators within the Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) investigate 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 these crimes to justice.
Shellfish Sanitation Program
The Shellfish Sanitation Program is a health and environmental protection program with three primary responsibilities:
- classification of the waters used for the growing and cultivating of molluscan shellfish,
- certification and inspection of facilities that process and distribute shellfish, and
- patrol those areas that are determined to be unsuitable for the harvesting of shellfish.
The 10-officer team primarily operates in the coastal counties but does conduct operations as needed throughout the state. Their responsibilities include patrolling the shellfish (oysters and clams) harvesting grounds and inspecting shellfish processors and transporters.
In 2022, the Office of Law Enforcement:
- Conducted 18 complex criminal investigations,
- Conducted 22 shellfish related illness investigations,
- Collected 5,568 water quality samples,
- Conducted 2,112 law enforcement patrols,
- Made 1,291 contacts with the public,
- Issued 74 tickets and 86 dealer permits,
- Answered 180 intra-agency calls for assistance,
- Conducted 132 facility inspections, and
- Attended 43 court hearings.
DHEC officers also work closely with counterparts in the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.