After nearly 40 years as a police officer, and more than 20 as West Columbia’s top cop, Police Chief Dennis Tyndall has decided to step down.
Tyndall announced his retirement in a press release Wednesday. He is the longest-serving police chief in the city’s history, and is credited by the city with bringing policing in West Columbia up to date by being an early adopter of new technology for police work.
Mayor Tem Miles said that during Tyndall’s time on the force “he has been an exemplary officer and chief. He has set the standard and provided the leadership that has made our police department the great, professional department it is. I am thankful for every day that he has served our community and even more thankful that he will be available to assist the City with the transition to our next chief.”
Tyndall started his career as a patrolman in 1984. He was recognized as the local officer of the year in 1989 and completed the FBI National Academy in 1995, later being sworn as a deputy U.S. Marshal. Tyndall described that as a catalyst for him becoming the city’s chief of police, a job he’s held since 1997.
Under his leadership, the department expanded the use of computers by officers and became one of the first departments in the state to adopt body cameras through a domestic violence grant. That was before body cameras were mandated by the state. He also closed the old city jail, sending all detainees straight to the Lexington County Detention Center on Gibson Road.
The number of officers more than doubled on his watch, going from 24 to 64. Tyndall said he would tell his successor that staffing will be the biggest challenge.
“That’s not a West Columbia problem. Everybody’s shorthanded,” Tyndall said. “It’s hard to find qualified people now to keep a full staff ... I’ll tell them don’t hire people just to hire them. Not everybody needs to be out there with a gun in their hand.”
On top of his other duties, Tyndall founded the West Columbia Police Officers Foundation, a non-profit set up to support law enforcement officers and provide additional training. In 2008, he was recognized as the law enforcement officer of the year by the S.C. Law Enforcement Officers’ Association. That same year, West Columbia was named one of the 50 most innovative police departments in America by the Ash Institute at Harvard University.
But now the chief feels the need to move on.
“The older you get, the more your personal time means to you,” said Tyndall, who turns 62 this year. “After being on call 24 hours for so long, I want to be on my farm on my tractor more.”
Tyndall said he will step down in the next couple months, as soon as the city can find a replacement for him and he can help the new chief get up and running.
“It’s been a fun ride,” Tyndall said. “I thank the city and the citizens for allowing me to do it so long.”