Brian Johnson hired as police chief

  • Barnwell Police Chief Brian Johnson

There’s a new chief in town.

Barnwell City Council unanimously approved the police committee’s recommendation to hire Brian Johnson as the new chief of the Barnwell Police Department. Johnson, who was hired last year as a captain with the department, had been serving as interim chief since Reuben Black was removed from office earlier this year.

“We are fortunate to have a man of his character and ability,” said Councilman W.C. Black of Johnson during the July 10 council meeting. He along with Councilman Benjamin Duncan make up the police committee.

Johnson, a 30-year veteran in law enforcement, was one of four finalists interviewed by the committee last month after 16 people applied for the job. The other finalists were Brian Owens (a Barnwell police detective), Timothy Wilke (police captain for Pelion) and Chad Dilling Sr. (chief of public safety for Ehrhardt).

“I am extremely appreciative to the mayor and council for their vote of confidence. This is an awesome responsibility and I hope I can live up to their expectations,” said Johnson.

He praises his staff as one of the best groups he’s worked with, citing how the men and women of the Barnwell Police Department are a diverse group of “proactive” people who “are trying to make a difference in the community.”

However, he sees room to grow. While he has a lot of ideas to positively help the department and community, he will be working out specifics over the coming months.

“I’m in the process of figuring out the best way to reorganize the department to be more efficient for our community,” said Johnson.

Johnson cites teamwork and training as two of his biggest focuses for the department. He said there is good camaraderie not only between his staff but also with other area law enforcements agencies, which he sees as a plus for Barnwell County. Johnson also believes it’s important to keep learning, which is why he wants to provide as much training for his officers as possible.

He is also excited about some upcoming opportunities, such as the new K-9 program the department will be launching soon. The dog will not only sniff out drugs but also assist officers in patrol procedures.

Officer Julio Santos Hernandez brought the information to Johnson, who then got the approval of city council. A grant will purchase a narcotics dog and also fund training for the dog and Hernandez. The program will start once Hernandez attends a two-week training and all essential policies and procedures are in place.

“It’s relatively inexpensive for the benefits we will receive,” said Johnson of how the city only has to fund the equipment and maintenance. “Just the mere presence of the dog could deter some people.”

The new public safety building, which will be funded by the 1 percent sales tax, is another exciting venture as the current police and fire departments are outdated, separated and inefficient. Council is currently working to secure bids for the project as well as the land to build the building.

“It’s going to be really nice,” said Johnson of how the new building will better serve the police and fire departments as well as citizens.

Johnson is a graduate of Williston-Elko High School and has been in law enforcement since 1986. He started with the Blackville Police Department before going to the Department of Corrections in Allendale. He later went to the Barnwell Police Department and then worked for nearly 19 years at the Barnwell County Sheriff’s Office before returning to the Barnwell Police Department last fall as a captain.

He and his wife Kelli have two children, Samuel and Jillian.