Documents: Pattern of inappropriate behavior led to Sullivan’s Island police chief’s resignation

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – Documents obtained by News 2 revealed multiple complaints against former Sullivan’s Island Police Chief Chris Griffin that spanned several years.

Griffin had been on the Sullivan’s Island police force since 1997 and was later appointed police chief in 2018 after former chief Dan Howard left the agency. At the time, Sullivan’s Island Mayor Patrick O’Neil said in messages regarding the promotion that Griffin had an “impeccable record of police service” and “strong ties with the community.”

Mayor O’Neil also noted he believed Griffin was a respected leader within the department. A search through personnel files, received through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, show Griffin received numerous certifications throughout his law enforcement career.

But documents appear to show a darker side to Griffin’s time as police chief including complaints made by law enforcement personnel and other area agencies that include allegations of inappropriate actions and behavior.

The following accounts are as documented in reports and files received by the Town of Sullivan’s Island. News 2 has not received comment from Griffin on any of these allegations. We have reached out.

Myrtle Beach Vendor Exposition

The first incident took place during a November 2019 South Carolina Police Chiefs Association Annual Leadership Conference in Myrtle Beach. According to the file, Griffin approached two women and asked for their numbers so he could send them what he thought were funny memes and images.

A lawsuit shows Griffin sent the woman almost 20 unanswered and unprompted messages at the time, and followed up asking “like any of those lol[?]”

The images – which were provided as screenshots in the FOIA documents – appeared to be sexually explicit, racist, demeaning, and inappropriate, according to the lawsuit. They were also provided as part of the FOIA request.

Both women reported the messages to Ryan Alphin, who served as executive Director of the Police Chief’s Association and informed him they felt uncomfortable by Griffin’s conduct.

The next day, Carl Ritchie, who served on the board and was chief of the Mount Pleasant Police Department, spoke with Sullivan’s Island Town Administrator Andy Benke about Griffin’s actions and provided the messages.

Griffin’s membership to the Police Chief’s Association was terminated on Nov. 11, based on “conduct unbecoming of a member.”

The lawsuit claimed the town did not open an investigation until the plaintiffs filed formal complaints against Griffin and provided the messages and images to the town. The lawsuit states the town then investigated but did not take any remedial or disciplinary action.

The town confirmed to News 2 in October 2021 that it was investigating the incident. Griffin remained employed.

Response to I-526 crash

Charleston Fire Department Chief Dan Curia filed a complaint against Griffin in March 2020 following an incident that took place at the scene of a crash on I-526 two days prior.

According to a letter sent to the town, Chief Curia explained that fire personnel were responding to a collision with a female who appeared to have been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 – this was at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Crews observed a patrol vehicle with its lights and siren activated, arrive at the accident scene. It was Griffin, who had not been dispatched to the scene nor was it within his jurisdiction.

Griffin was asked to not approach the scene because the patient may have COVID, but Griffin replied that he did not care because the patient was one of his employees and lobbed an expletive at fire personnel.

According to Chief Curia, Griffin entered the patient’s vehicle without protection and removed items and a car seat. They said his reckless actions potentially contaminated the accident scene and noted that Griffin knowingly violated two lawful orders to not enter the area.

Derogatory comments and inappropriate behavior

Multiple complaints were filed against Griffin by personnel from the Sullivan’s Island Police Department regarding derogatory and sexually explicit comments, and inappropriate behavior in 2023.

One complaint filed in late December reflected on an incident that happened following a high-speed chase that took place on August 25 and ended at Breach Inlet. According to the complaint, Griffin approached two employees and showed them a photo of a woman, and asked if they could guess her age.

They guessed, and Griffin replied that she was 50 and asked if they were into “MILFS,” which is a term often made about women perceived as attractive mothers.

Griffin said he traveled to Florida to meet up with the woman and described their encounter, saying he wished he had filmed it because the woman was “quite a freak,” the complaint said.

A complaint filed by a patrol officer on December 14, 2023, described a pattern of harassment.

The patrol officer stated that she had just been informed she would be hired by the department, but she was still working for Isle of Palms PD. One day, she was not feeling well and said Griffin kept contacting her, saying she could come over to his house and lay on the couch so that he could take care of her.

The woman said she told Griffin it was not appropriate since he would be her superior and that he was making her uncomfortable. “He then seemed to get angry and said, “can’t we be friends?” and then did not contact her for three weeks to the point that she began to wonder if she still was going to get the job,” the complaint read.

After she started working for the agency, she said they were going through the uniforms that belonged to a previous female officer to see if she could use any of the items. The documents say she tried on a Sullivan’s Island Police Department t-shirt to wear under her uniform, but Griffin commented on her chest.

The employee alleged many other concerning comments made by Griffin. In another case, the employee said she was told to give Griffin her locker combination because “everything in the police department was police property and he had to have access.”

After that, random items like toys and stuffed animals started to appear in the locker room. The employee suspected they were placed by the department’s fleet manager, Tom McLellan, at Griffin’s direction.

Deputy Chief Glenn Meadows sent a text message to the department saying these actions would stop. While the actions stopped, the employee said it appeared Griffin and McLellan started using a nickname for her – that name was redacted. She also noted that other officers started treating her differently.

The patrol officer also believed that Griffin was tracking her vehicle because he would know where she was at various times.

Another complaint was filed on Dec. 19, 2023, by an employee who had an issue with things Griffin said about her and other employees. In one case, she described comments about what Griffin thought she would do in bed and asked inappropriate questions about her fiancé.

News 2 reported in mid-January 2024 that Griffin had been placed on administrative leave without pay amid an investigation into a personnel matter.

Griffin resigned as police chief on February 20. Documents show the town agreed to pay Griffin a one-time lump sum of $10,000 as part of his departure, which was split into two payments of $4,000 and $6,000.

News 2 also confirmed Friday that McLellan was no longer employed at the department.

The Town of Sullivan’s Island did not provide comment.