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New Winthrop Police chief puts focus on recruitment, relationships

Winthrop police chief talks department's future in Rock Hill SC

Kenneth Scoggins was named Chief of Police for Winthrop University in December after serving on an interim status for several months. He has several goals for the Rock Hill department.
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Kenneth Scoggins was named Chief of Police for Winthrop University in December after serving on an interim status for several months. He has several goals for the Rock Hill department.

Kenneth Scoggins discovered his love for police work when he was working as a utility service provider.

Scoggins, 51, was named chief of police for Winthrop University in December after serving interim for several months, following Frank Zebedis’ retirement in August.

Winthrop University Campus Police Department is a fully functional police department separate from Rock Hill Police Department. Campus officers have statewide jurisdiction.

Scoggins did not start in police work. He worked as a utility worker for the city of Rock Hill from 1984 to 1987.

“I enjoyed the work, but after a few winters of sitting in a meter box, and it’s pouring down rain and it’s 20 degrees, I thought to myself ‘there has got to be something better than this,’” he said.

Scoggins responded to a utility service call at the police department.

“I looked at the uniforms and I looked at the cars and I thought this would be a pretty cool job,” he said. “I’m not an 8-to-5, Monday-through-Friday kind of guy.”

Then in his early 20s, Scoggins applied with Rock Hill Police Department. He started as a patrol officer in 1988.

In 1992, Scoggins was promoted to master police officer, then patrol sergeant in 1995. He transferred to the detective division and then to the professional standards division.

Scoggins started as an officer in 2001 at Winthrop. He had completed a degree in criminal justice at University of South Carolina, and earned a bachelor’s in sociology with a concentration in criminology at Winthrop. Scoggins also holds a certificate of criminal justice from University of Virginia.

“I was satisfied with the Rock Hill Police Department. It is one of the greatest departments in the state,” Scoggins said. “They have a great city, a great department with great officers and great leadership. But you wonder what it will be like somewhere a little different.”

With Winthrop Police, Scoggins was promoted to sergeant, then assistant chief and now chief of police. Scoggins said it’s a natural succession for his nearly 30-year career in police work.

“I’m very happy, honored and humbled by where I’m at right now. I just hope I can be a good steward of what I’ve been entrusted with,” he said.

I’m very happy, honored and humbled by where I’m at right now, and I just hope I can be a good steward of what I’ve been entrusted with.

Kenneth Scoggins, Winthrop Police chief

Scoggins said he won’t forget where he started. He recalled walking into the Rock Hill Police Department and filling a box with equipment on his first day.

“I remember that so vividly like it was yesterday,” he said. “Where 30 years have gone, I can’t begin to tell you.”

The chief recalled talking with officers who joined in the ’60s and ’70s.

“My heroes weren’t on TV, my heroes were in the Rock Hill Police Department,” Scoggins said. “I look back on my Rock Hill Police Department days with fond memories. That’s where the fun times come from.”

Being an officer means celebrating the little things each day, Scoggins said.

“You can bring some hope into someone else’s life,” he said.

Looking to the future

Scoggins said he hopes to focus on recruitment, improving the visibility of officers and accreditation of the police department.

“I was fortunate in that Chief Zebedis handed over a good department doing what we feel are wonderful things and pointed in a good direction,” he said.

Winthrop Police haven’t put a large focus on recruitment, something Scoggins said he plans to change.

“We need to recruit and identify good people,” he said. “I am not looking for a body in a uniform. I am looking for what I consider the best fit for not only our department but for the larger university as a whole.”

Scoggins said he remembers when there were hundreds of applicants for a few officer positions.

“Now I wonder if little boys want to be police officers when they grow up anymore,” he said. “It seems like police work today, for whatever reason, is maybe not as fashionable as it was years ago.”

Recalling days of officers walking specific areas and neighborhoods, Scoggins said he wants to increase officers’ visibility on campus.

With the invention of radio, Scoggins said officers were put in cars. He would like to see officers back on bikes and out on campus and in Rock Hill mingling with students and residents.

“I want their relationship to be greater than them seeing the officer riding around in a car,” he said. “I want them to know that officer by name.”

Scoggins also looking to finalize an International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators accreditation process Winthrop Police has been working toward for years.

“It’s a stamp of approval on an organization and lets the people we serve know this is a professional organization trying to uphold high standards,” Scoggins said.

Scoggins also plans to take advantage of technology upgrades and continue to foster the department’s relationship with the city, college and residents. Winthrop officers have statewide jurisdiction and often work with other area first responders, he said.

“I’ve been entrusted with something here. These men and women, who are some of the most phenomenal officers you ever met in your entire life, come to work every day and give everything they can,” Scoggins said. “I just hope I can be the caliber of leader to bring positive effect on their lives and the lives of our students, staff and guests here at Winthrop University.”

Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082

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