CHESTER, SC (WBTV) - Max Dorsey was sworn in as the new Chester County Sheriff Wednesday morning, after Alex Underwood was indicted and subsequently suspended from office by the governor on Tuesday.
Dorsey says the job he was asked to take on will be difficult, dangerous and unpredictable. Dorsey says he’s never been a sheriff before and is learning as he goes.
"I’ve been asked to take on a job that I know will be difficult, dangerous, and unpredictable," Dorsey said at the swearing in ceremony. "And although it’s something that I’ve thought about, this is something I’ve thought about for over 20 years, it is not a position I expected to have at this time of my life and certainly not under these circumstances."
Dorsey continued, “This is my home and I’m committed with every ounce of my being to do my part. I’m going make a commitment to you in front of everyone that I’m going to do all that I can to make this better. Not for the rich or the poor, not for the black or the white, not for the cyclones, the lions or the red devils, but for everybody.”
Underwood, Chief Deputy Robert Sprouse and a lieutenant were indicted by a federal grand jury on eight counts related to the unlawful arrest of a mother and son at their home in November 2018. Prosecutors allege the men illegally arrested the man, assaulted him while he was handcuffed and then attempted to fabricate documents and lied to investigators to impede the federal investigation.
Separately, Underwood and his department are also being investigated by the FBI for allegations of corruption and mishandling of agency funds.
Governor Henry McMaster suspended Underwood from office hours after the indictments were announced. McMaster’s office named Dorsey as the new sheriff until Underwood is either acquitted or convicted or until a new election is held for the job.
Dorsey, a captain in the narcotics division for the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, said he is eager to get to work.
“I am humbled by the request that the governor has made,” Dorsey told WBTV late Tuesday night, in his first interview since being appointed. “I appreciate the governor having the trust that he has in me to come here into my home community and to move things forward and to try and repair some relationships and to make a difference—make a positive difference—in moving forward, moving our county forward.”
Dorsey announced Joe Tate, a retired SCHPatrolman, will be Chief Deputy.
When asked how he will handle stepping in to lead a department in the midst of turmoil, Dorsey said he wants to reassure Chester County residents that his first priority is to protect residents and their property.
“We’ve got great men and women in this department and it is my job to empower them and make sure they’re given the necessary tools and support to do their jobs and, so, this problem that has been revealed today through these indictments is not the problem of the men and women in this department and so we are going to move forward,” he said. “We are looking towards the future and we are going to do all that we can to make sure this department is moving forward and doing our job.”
Dorsey said he plans to continue meeting with county, municipal and community leaders through the reset of the week after being officially sworn in.