Now-former Hartsville Police Chief Jerry Thompson (Courtesy: City of Hartsville)

HARTSVILLE, S.C. (WBTW) — Hartsville’s now-former police chief Jerry Thompson “decided to retire” during a private meeting about News13’s most-recent public records request about internal affairs investigations regarding his former officers, according to new documents obtained by News13.

Thompson was Hartsville’s police chief from 2015 until Feb. 14, when the city suddenly announced he had retired, effective immediately. That came just three weeks after News13 requested employee files for former Hartsville officers Mark Campbell and Curtis Bryant, related to their Internal Affairs investigations that we’ve been looking into for months.

Information provided to News13 this week shows that 13 days after our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about Campbell and Bryant, Hartsville City Manager Daniel Moore texted Thompson, “Need to meet with you to talk about the 2nd FOIA/Campbell with Kimberly [Jones, City of Hartsville HR director] at 9am. My office.”

Text message exchange between Hartsville City Manager Daniel Moore, top, and then-Hartsville Police Chief Jerry Thompson, bottom (Courtesy: City of Hartsville)

Moore tells News13 that during that Feb. 6 meeting, Thompson told him and Jones that he “decided to retire.” No additional information about the discussion has been made public.

A payroll action form dated Feb. 15 says Thompson resigned due to retirement, effective Feb. 14. The document has a note that says, “Employee verbally resigned (present City Manager and HR Director)”.

(Courtesy: City of Hartsville)

There is no evidence that Thompson ever provided any written or e-mailed resignation or retirement letter to the City of Hartsville, according to Hartsville’s response to our public records request.

While with the Hartsville Police Department, Campbell was investigated for alleged sexual harassment of multiple female police officers, as well as for his interactions with a Walmart employee that were sexual in nature.

He was set to be fired by the Hartsville Police in 2020 but quit first.

Bryant admitted to posting nude photos of an ex-girlfriend online without her permission. He was set to be fired by the Hartsville Police in 2019 but quit first.

In both cases, documentation shows that the City of Hartsville agreed to allow Campbell and Bryant to be marked in their system as “voluntary resignations”, rather than move forward with termination procedures.

Neither situation apparently rose to the level of “misconduct,” according to how “misconduct” is defined by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, so that information was not placed on each officer’s Academy file.

As a result of our recent reporting about those internal investigations, Campbell, who was at the time a Darlington County Sheriff’s Office captain, was fired and Bryant, also a Darlington County Sheriff’s captain, was suspended.

News13 previously reported that Darlington County Sheriff James Hudson was unaware of the allegations against Campbell when he hired him in Jan. 2021.

“Upon taking office, I went to Hartsville to inquire about any alarms about Campbell and I was told ‘no’ by the city police chief [Jerry Thompson] and city manager [Daniel Moore],” Hudson said.

When News13 asked Thompson about this shortly after his retirement, he repeatedly said he had no comment about the situation.

When we reached him again Friday morning to ask about whether his retirement was related to Campbell and/or Bryant, or whether anyone pressured him to retire, Thompson again had no comment.

In Hartsville’s February announcement about Thompson’s retirement, Police Capt. Jason Privette, who led the Internal Affairs investigations into both Campbell and Bryant when he was a lieutenant, was named acting police chief.

Hudson recently announced that he requested that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) conduct a full investigation into the allegations of misconduct previously brought forward against Campbell and Bryant.

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