Sheriff’s Deputy making positive waves in Cainhoy area implementing community-first policing model
It’s half-past one on a bright, clear Wednesday afternoon, and Deputy Cephus Rogers of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office is perched in one of his normal spots on Clements Ferry Road, just north of I-526.
With his blue cruising lights on, Rogers is a presence on the roadway, and the bustling cars
and tractor trailers behave accordingly. The scene was typical enough, until something happened that is often a rarity when it comes to the cops and the community – the female driver behind the wheel of an otherwise anonymous sedan drove by Cpl. Rogers, and, upon seeing him, tooted her horn and waved hello.
And then it happened again seconds later, when another driver, in a truck this time, did the same thing, driving past Rogers with honks and a wave. Not long after that, the drivers of four more cars repeated the act.
“I didn’t know her, but I guess she knows me,” says Rogers with a chuckle after the first driver waved to him. In the tight-knit but growing community on the greater Cainhoy Peninsula, it seems like almost everybody knows Rogers. And that’s just the way he likes it.
Hired in May 2015, Rogers returned to his childhood home when he took a position with the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO). The Jamestown native and 27-year veteran of law enforcement has, for the last year-and-a-half, worked the areas on and around Cainhoy and Clements Ferry Roads as the BCSO regional ‘Community Action Team’ deputy for the area.
In doing so, Rogers has employed a unique style in policing the community. Built from a foundation of empathy with a community he loves, Rogers’ community-first policing style was backed by Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis who, only six weeks after being elected, introduced his Community Action Team model, which stresses community dialogue over enforcement, i.e. the carrot over the stick. And in Rogers, Lewis found a perfect messenger for the program.
“I was gone from Berkeley County from 1989 to 2015, and I’ve tried to work with the communities and work with the kids at all these other places that I’d been assigned and I thought one day…I need to go home and help my people,” says Rogers. “Berkeley County is my home and so here I am. I’m trying to help these people in the area where I was raised, Jamestown and Berkeley County, that I have so much respect for.”
And that respect is on full display in how Rogers conducts the business of policing. He uses his own visibility as a deterrent, encouraging voluntary compliance with laws he enforces only when all other options have been exhausted. For Rogers, writing fewer tickets is a success in its own right. To him, numbers aren’t the only things that matter.
“If I want to write tickets, I can, because it’s what I’ve done for the last 27 years,” he continues. “I know how to write tickets. But my point is to meet as many people as I can, talk to them and find out from them how they feel about law enforcement. Even if I have the right to take you to jail, and I probably should, for your behavior and your violations, I’m going to give you a break and give you a citation to come to court and talk about it, help you with whatever your situation might be. It’s not just about crime, if it’s about providing the community with information for the betterment of their lifestyle.”
In carrying out that message, Rogers connects with the community on a daily basis, giving out his cell phone number and directing people to his Facebook page, where he posts and receives information about individual crimes being committed or trends on the rise.
“We’re using Facebook to put messages out there on occasion and everyone else is using it to post the problems they’re having,” he says. “And so it’s educational, and when people put where I’m parked on Facebook, especially when I’m on Highway 41 say writing tickets, it doesn’t bother me. I’m glad that they do that because that’s telling everyone ‘I’m out there, so slow down.’”
Communicating through Facebook with the community is just one aspect of the Community Action Team (CAT) model introduced by Lewis. The core of the model is the CAT deputies, who are assigned to specific areas where they not only patrol but also interact with area residents. The program mandates that they work with community leaders, attend block parties and crime prevention meetings.
“We get out in the community,” says Rogers, who calls the Sheriff Lewis’ model ‘the best thing going since sliced bread.’ “And this works for us. We cook hot dogs, we go to birthday parties, we go to churches, events that are happening, all they’ve got to do is call.”
And in Rogers’ mind, the model he represents is not only what’s needed and what continues to be needed in Berkeley County, but across the board in law enforcement.
“I truly feel like we as police officers in the 21st century need to change our tactics,” he adds. “We’ve got to get out and talk to people, we’ve got to have empathy. We have to bend over backward for the people because guess what, they are the ones who pay our salaries. They’re the ones who, through County Council, provide us with these nice vehicles and all this equipment, the body armor. They are the ones who serve on our juries.”
Motivations aside, the model demonstrated by Corporal Rogers has been well-received by the community. And while deputies like Rogers are the folks who are actually out there in the community initiating the CAT model, attending birthday parties, handing out water on hot days and waving to passersby, for Rogers’ part, the credit for the program goes straight to the top, to his boss Sheriff Lewis.
“Under this leadership, what’s made the difference is seeing the need and actually doing something about it,” he says. “Sheriff Lewis has done something and I know that the benefits are highly visible. If the Sheriff didn’t approve of this and start with the Community Action Team unit model, we wouldn’t be doing the community stuff we’re doing. We would be answering calls, locking people up and being distant. Now, we’re trying to close that gap.”
For Lewis, who was elected to the seat of Sheriff by Berkeley County voters in June of 2015, having deputies like Rogers implementing his model now is important, considering what’s to come for the region. Roads like Clements Ferry are now busy with industrial, commercial and residential traffic, and with a steady stream of growth planned for the future of Huger, Cainhoy, and other parts of the region, Lewis’ eyes are trained on the future.
“My plan is to take a look at that growth and how it impacts us and the services we provide, which means additional manpower to cover those neighborhoods and businesses in those areas,” said Lewis. “And that’s the plan. We will try to look at it and take a positive growth approach to being able to deal with it.”
For Lewis and the BCSO, additional manpower will certainly be needed to address growth, but the plan is in place according to Rogers. And he intends to implement it with humility.
“I realize that I don’t satisfy everybody. It’s not possible to do that, and I’m not perfect either, but I try to help as many people as I can,” says Rogers, while waving to another driver passing in the opposite lane. “And that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
To interact with Corporal Rogers on Facebook, find his page at www.facebook.com/deputy.rogers.
Tips from Deputy Cephus Rogers
Share the Road
“Everyone has an agenda, to get from point A to point B, but if you can help someone along the way and make their commute a little easier, a little bit more pleasant, a little bit less frustrating then we all win. And what’s more, we reduce the number of traffic collisions. It’s all about everyone sharing the road.”
Use the SC511 App
Using SC511, a free smartphone app from the South Carolina Department of Transportation, you can monitor local roadways and spot problem areas and delays related to your commute with the app’s traffic cam feature.