Swearing-in of new Hanahan officer raising concerns on social media; city leaders respond

HANAHAN, S.C. (WCBD) – The swearing-in of a new officer for the Hanahan Police Department is raising some concerns on social media.

Officer Ken Duncan was sworn in last Tuesday during a Hanahan City Council meeting. But after the city shared an update on its Facebook page, several residents began questioning the hire and sharing past reports related to Duncan, including a 2018 arrest for impersonating a police officer and unauthorized use of signal lights for emergency vehicles. 

News 2 asked Hanahan Mayor Christie Rainwater and Police Chief Rick Gebhardt about the decision. They told us there is actually more to the situation than what can be discussed in public.

“We actually cannot talk about it. It would be illegal because the whole situation has been expunged,” said Mayor Rainwater. “So, people that did not have all of the information in front of them are making a lot of decisions when people who had all of the information in front of them chose to act in that accord.”

“He was employed by two other law enforcement agencies before Hanahan hired him. Both post this incident. He was first employed by the Andrews Police Department and then by the North Charleston Police Department,” said Chief Gebhardt.

Chief Gebhardt said while Duncan was hired before he took over as police chief, he does have information that cannot be discussed publicly about the allegations. Officer Duncan also went through an extensive process prior to hiring.

“There’s a polygraph examination, a background investigation, a driver’s license check,” he explained.

We asked Chief Gebhardt about the officer disclosing past issues to the public since he will be working in public safety.

“Absolutely not because when the charge is expunged, it’s like it never even happened. So, he has the right to not have to disclose it, because it’s like it never existed,” the chief explained.

“It is up to them if they would like to do it or not, but the truth is there might not be much to explain,” said Mayor Rainwater. “I think that’s something to consider.”

Chief Gebhardt says Officer Duncan will be a great asset to the department and to Hanahan.

“We want them to understand that we would never put them in a position to be policed by someone who we don’t think can handle the job or do the duties of a police officer to the utmost authority, and respect that they should be able to,” he added.

Mayor Rainwater said she initially had some concerns as well. “I had the same exact concerns when I first heard. I instantly texted our staff, ‘what is going on with this?’ And then once I had all the information, I had to say, OK that makes sense.”

The city of Hanahan released a statement about the situation:

“The American criminal justice system is a thorough process that involves several parties, including law enforcement, prosecutors, defendants, and peers. Although an individual may be arrested, they may not be convicted for one of several reasons. Often, the media is quick to share information on what they consider a noteworthy incident but they fail to follow it up with facts when the case is adjudicated. 

All law enforcement officers are subjected to a thorough background investigation, including criminal history check and certification compliance through the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. All Hanahan Police Department officers go through this process. Those with criminal records and/or those not eligible for certification are disqualified from the hiring process.

The Hanahan Police Department is committed to ensuring the safety of its residents and guests.”