If you’re a fan, there’s good news. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Live PD is coming back. Lott spoke at the Greater Cayce -West Columbia Chamber Breakfast Tuesday. Lott, who has been in law enforcement for 46 years, was named the 2021 National Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriffs Association.
The breakfast was held at Stone River in West Columbia and featured a full-capacity audience. The packed house is a sign that things are getting closer to normal, said Chamber Board President Hayley Bowers.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department is the most-featured agency on the highly popular Live PD that was broadcast on the A&E Network before it was taken off the air. Lott said he expects the show to film in the summer and be back on another network before the end of 2021.
Lott also said his department is the focus of so much national attention because of it success in rebranding.
“We changed the direction of the sheriff’s department,” Lott said.
He said he was contacted by Police2Peace, a California-based organization, that saw his department on Live PD.
Police2Peach paid for “Peace Officer” patches for uniforms and logos for patrol cars for the RCSD.
“Our job is to keep the peace,” Lott said.
He said part of the change included an effort to build relationships in the community before there was a crisis.
“We go out every single day to build that relationship with somebody,” Lott said. “Our goal is not to lock people up.”
Lott said when a riot broke out in Columbia on May 30, 2020, it only lasted part of a day. He also said the trouble came mostly from out-of-towners and more than 100 arrests have been made in connection to that day of unrest.
He said local protesters were peaceful and he supported their effort.
Another innovation incorporated by Richland County Sheriff’s Deputies is to run cars with the blue side-lights on in order to make law enforcement’s presence known as a safety measure.
Lott also said the RCSD responded to more than 2,700 mental health crisis calls in 2020. Some included the homeless. Lott said now a non-uniformed deputy, trained to deal with mental health issues, and a Department of Mental Health professional answers those calls.
“We’re not just putting handcuffs on people,” Lott said.
After Lott spoke, Chamber President and CEO Tim James presented him with a resolution. “Sheriff Lott has created a department of excellence,” James said, reading from the resolution.