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Purden named city’s new police chief

The city of North Myrtle Beach has found its new police chief after two rounds of searches and interviews. He is Greg Purden, a commander in the Brevard County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department. He is set to start the first week of May.

A committee of area law enforcement chiefs all voted unanimously on Purden, who has 33 years of experience including in tourist areas in Florida, though that was not the main reason for his selection, according to North Myrtle Beach Public Safety Director Jay Fernandez.

“We truly believe he’s going to be a great asset,’’ Fernandez said, explaining that the committee thought his skill set, experience, communication style and personality best fit the local department.

Fernandez said Purden had thoroughly researched the department and the area before the interview.

“He pretty much gave us the message that he’s not looking to come in and make wholesale changes. He’s going to look at the organization and see where we can improve. We don’t need a game changer because we are on the right track. We need somebody who can come in and help us see the forest, not the trees, and get us to the next level.’’

The committee was made up of Horry County Sheriff Phil Thompson, North Myrtle Beach Fire Chief Gary Spain, Horry County Police Chief Joseph Hill, Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock and Surfside Beach Police Chief Kenneth Hofmann “because he’s got to be able to communicate well with all those departments, as well,’’ Fernandez said.

This was the second round of interviews for the position. The first time, in December, 119 applied and of those, four were selected to be interviewed but none seemed a match “for our particular culture,’’ Fernandez said, though they met the initial criteria. The committee went back a second time in early 2019, culled through 54 applicants and interviewed seven, four of which stood out. Of them, two were from Florida, one was from Nevada and one was from Illinois.

“We were looking for someone who can work with the front-line staff, the command staff, other department heads and with other police department executives in the county. We wanted someone who can come in and add value to our department, which we feel is already going in the right direction.’’

Fernandez said while it was not the deciding factor, it did help that Brevard County, where Purden works, includes about 70 miles of coast and Cape Canaveral.

“He understands that the people you see this week are not the same people you see next week,’’ Fernandez said, adding that Purden understood the mentality of the department to first educate and next warn before issuing citations to people who may not be familiar with the local laws.

Purden will be arriving the same month as two big biker rallies, a half-marathon and a city festival. “His head is going to be spinning,’’ Fernandez joked, adding that Purden will spend the first months meeting with community and business leaders and residents.

“He’s kind of a laid back guy,’’ Fernandez said. “And it helps to have an outside view. We’re going to tap into that experience and knowledge that he has to build an even better department.’’

Purden is retiring from his commander post in Brevard County to come to the North Strand.

He has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in Missouri and graduated from the FBI National Academy and the Southern Police Institute 39th Command Officers Development Course.

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