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      Sheriffs' arrests a growing concern for law enforcement leaders

      KERSHAW COUNTY (WACH) -- Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews has been in law enforcment for more than 20 years. While he doesn't put up with criminal activities under his watch, he is concerned to see five of the state's sheriffs facing criminal charges in the past 3 years.

      "[It's] disappointing when sheriffs, especially because I am a sheriff or law enforcement for that matter, get charged with something; and I hate to see it because it puts a cloud over the whole profession," said Matthews.

      Five of South Carolina's 46 sheriffs have faced criminal charges in the past three years, and that has fellow law enforcement leaders concerned.

      In 2011, former Lee County Sheriff E.J. Melvin was convicted on dozens of federal drug and racketeering charges.

      In August, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon was arrested for assault and battery after he admitted to slapping a suspect that led deputies on a high speed chase.

      Four more sheriffs have been charged with misusing state inmates for labor.

      The most recent, investigators say Chesterfield County Sheriff Sam Parker was charged with official misconduct and giving favored inmates extra benefits.

      Those benefits included unsupervised visits and access to television and alcohol.

      "I know some sheriffs that if they got in trouble, I'd be very very surprised, because they really go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure they don't cross that line," adds Matthews.

      "The rules are clear I don't think there can be a great deal of confusion about that," said Jeff Moore.

      Moore is the executive director of the South Carolina Sheriff's Association and says sheriffs who oversee jails can have a tougher job.

      Detention centers can hold county, state and federal inmates and depending on who arrested the prisoner the jail has different laws to follow.

      "Of course it's a concern we want to make sure that those sheriffs who run jails are running them appropriately and understand the rules," adds Moore.

      Sheriffs from across the state plan to meet in April for additional training and to talk about what they can do to prevent any other counties top cops from being on the wrong side of the law.