South Carolina's Top Cop Keel Wants Another 6 Years, But He Has To Retire For 30 Days First

FILE - South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel, left, addresses the media during a news conference following a prison riot at the Lee Correctional Institution, April 16, 2018, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina's governor said Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, that he plans to ask for another six-year term as chief for Keel early next year. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford, File)
FILE - South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel, left, addresses the media during a news conference following a prison riot at the Lee Correctional Institution, April 16, 2018, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina's governor said Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, that he plans to ask for another six-year term as chief for Keel early next year. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s governor wants the state’s top police officer to serve six more years, but to keep his retirement benefits, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel must first take 30 days off.

Keel sent a letter to Gov. Henry McMaster on Wednesday, saying he planned to retire from the agency he has worked for nearly his entire 44-year law enforcement career. But Keel only wants to retire for 30 days so he can take advantage of a state law that allows police officers to continue to work while collecting retirement benefits.

Once Keel’s “retirement” ends in early January, McMaster said he will ask the state Senate to confirm his intention to appoint Keel to another six-year term.

The South Carolina retirement system allows state employees in several different professions, such as teachers, to continue to work and collect retirement benefits at the same time.

Keel has been chief of SLED since 2011. He has worked with the agency since 1979 except for three years he spent leading the state Public Safety Department from 2008 to 2011.

Keel has his law degree, is a helicopter pilot and has been certified as a hostage negotiator.

If confirmed for another term, Keel would be paid more than $267,000. Lawmakers gave the chief of SLED a $72,000 raise earlier this year.

Assistant SLED Chief Richard Gregory will serve as acting chief while Keel is away. Gregory has been with the agency since 1995.