July 2023 Officer of the Month
Chief Luther Reynolds, (1966-2023)
Charleston Police Department, South Carolina
The following paragraphs were taken from the nomination of Chief Reynolds for this MADD recognition. His application for nomination was submitted, just days before his death, by Steven Burritt, MADD’s Regional Executive Director for North and South Carolina.
Chief Reynolds announced May 18th, 2023 that he will end his cancer treatment and enter hospice care. So many know him much better than I do, but I have to share a bit about what MADD South Carolina thinks about this great leader.
First, it is important to know that Chief Reynolds came to Charleston in 2018 from Maryland and was an assistant chief with the Montgomery County Police Department in 2015. That year, Officer Noah Leotta was killed in the line of duty by a drunk driver, and it affected Chief Reynolds deeply, especially creating a passion to reduce impaired driving. He told me often of that painful experience of being at the hospital that night with Noah’s family.
I saw his passion for impaired driving enforcement and his commitment to MADD’s work often. He had me come to speak to his entire command staff (no other Chief has ever done that). He would email me randomly at all times of year asking for an update on our push to strengthen the laws (no other Chief has ever done that). He told me multiple times that he was bringing the issue before the Chief’s Association for their support and engagement (no other Chief has ever done that).
We had him read the names of our victims at one of our Walk Like MADD Lowcountry events. He showed up to local Law Enforcement Network meetings when we were honoring one of his DUI officers. When I emailed him last week about the all-offender ignition interlock bill (what South Carolina calls Emma’s Law while Maryland called their version Noah’s Law) finally passing, he not only emailed back his support and gratitude, but copied many members of Charleston leadership because he wanted others to know about this big deal (no other Chief did that).
Just last month, his local paper, The Post & Courier, ran an editorial about how the state needs to pass the all-offender ignition interlock despite the fact that Charleston Police Department’s efforts seem to be working. Here is part of that column: “Two years ago, the city of Charleston saw 22 fatal traffic collisions, 16 of which were alcohol-related, but just a year later, the number of deadly accidents involving alcohol fell to two, driving down the overall number of fatal crashes to 12. While Police Chief Luther Reynolds realizes such statistics can make a department look good one year and not so good the next, he rightly takes pride in this dramatic drop. Other police chiefs and sheriffs should take note and seek similar success. Mr. Reynolds attributes the drop to a lot of hard work and data-driven changes his traffic division made in recent years. He has wanted the police department to increase its focus on driving under the influence since a particularly tragic 2018 event in which a man under the influence of drugs struck and killed an 11-year-old Danish girl walking in Cannon Park. Perhaps the biggest change was shifting the bulk of the city’s traffic patrols to a night shift, when driving under the influence peaks. The department also reviewed the data to see which streets and parts of the city were seeing the most serious collisions. Charleston police made 362 DUI arrests in 2021 and 477 last year. So far this year, none of the city’s six fatal accidents was known to involve impairment, though not all bloodwork results are in, says Lt. Sean Engels of the department’s traffic unit. Under Chief Reynolds leadership, Charleston recently swept the South Carolina Department of Public Safety DUI enforcement awards for agency of the year, officer of the year (Officer Zachariah Azari, 110 DUI arrests) and rookie of the year (Officer Shonnah McCauley, 30 DUI arrests). Police departments in Goose Creek, Pickens, Belton and at Clemson University were recognized in their smaller-size categories.”
We at MADD South Carolina will continue to work hard to be worthy of that kind of support and passion. I am certain that Noah would be very proud.
MADD Mission Support Center is proud to posthumously recognize Chief Luther Reynolds as the MADD July 2023 Officer of the Month. His legacy will live on for many years to come. Please keep his wife Caroline and the Reynolds family in your thoughts and prayers.
Luther Reynolds Obituary (1966 – 2023) – Charleston, SC – Charleston Post & Courier (postandcourier.com)
Editor’s note: Officer Noah Leotta is the July 2023 Mission Moment