Last week, Isle of Palms appointed Kevin Cornett its next police chief. This week, Interim Police Chief Kim Usry retires on Wednesday, May 15 after more than two decades of public service.
Usry, who spent 22 out of 25 years of service on the island, cited her departure was due to family-related reasons. Her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer in January and passed away in April. She stated she needs to be with family during this time.
"I know that my decision is the right one," Usry said. "This is the time where I'm able to put (family) first and I don't have to work, which is nice."
Another factor, emotions aside, was Usry's eligibility to retire after 25 years under South Carolina's Police Officer's Retirement System. She reiterated that she was not retiring because she wasn't named the next chief; this was a predetermined decision.
"I've enjoyed it. I wouldn't have traded these 22 years for anything in the world," Usry said. "This is where I grew up and being able to work here has been an awesome dream for me."
Usry became the first female interim police chief in Isle of Palms' history when she took over her longtime mentor Chief Thomas Buckhannon in April 2018. She first came onto the scene in her early 30s when she started off as a dispatcher in August 1997. In January 1999 she attended the police academy for nine weeks, graduated in March 1999 as a police officer and came back to hit the streets of Isle of Palms.
In 2003 Usry was promoted to corporal and worked directly under a sergeant to command a squad. In May 2006 she was promoted to sergeant and then laterally transferred from patrol to administrative Sergeant in charge of field training the new recruits and also accreditation manager for Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). In April 2011 Usry was promoted to operations captain and then interim police chief seven years later.
Throughout her career she is credited with helping keep the department nationally accredited by serving as the CALEA accreditation manager during 2006-17. Usry is also responsible for updating the department's hiring process, promotional process and utilization of electronic citations.
In March, Usry pushed for the department to get a 7% wage increase which raised certified officers' starting minimum wages from $39,263 to $42,009. However, she admitted there's been tough times under her command, referencing to losing officers due to pay at the beginning of the year.
Usry noted that these personnel shortages have since been fixed and will be completely resolved prior to Cornett's command. She says experiences like these have tightened the police department's relationship with city administration.
During her year-long stint as interim police chief she wore her captain's bar and never moved her belongings into the captain's office because she didn't feel entitled to it and thought it would be a bit presumptuous.
"I'm all about making sure you have that right image, you do the right thing and you present yourself appropriately and professionally," Usry said.
With Usry leaving prior to Cornett's taking over June 3, Captain Jeffery Swain will be in charge of command for the next few weeks. Swain was promoted to captain in January 2016 and has served the island since 2010.
"I really like Cornett," Usry said. "When I met with him I could immediately feel his enthusiasm for the job. It was just very contagious. I'm super excited about leaving the department in his hands."