WE DOUBT ANY Midlands workplace confronted more tragedies during the past few months than the Forest Acres Police Department.
The department’s officers lost a colleague in the line of duty, struggled to help residents escape massive flooding, and worked for months out of temporary quarters after floodwaters engulfed their Trenholm Road station.
But beginning this week, the department is returning to a sense of normalcy. On Monday, Police Chief Gene Sealy unlocked the front door of the police station. The department is set to move back in.
“We were keeping our fingers crossed that this day would finally come,” Chief Sealy said.
Forest Acres police start move back into renovated station
After the past few months, the department certainly deserves some good news. The string of tragedies started on Sept. 30 when officer Greg Alia was shot to death while responding to a call about a suspicious person near Richland Mall. Mr. Alia chased the man into the mall, where the officer was killed.
Mr. Alia, a seven-year veteran of the Forest Acres department, was described as “strong and brave — selfless.” His death was a reminder of the risks and sacrifices officers in Forest Acres and elsewhere assume to keep the rest of us safe.
The Forest Acres department parked Mr. Alia’s car in front of its headquarters, where mourners placed flowers and left messages.
Mr. Alia was buried on Saturday, Oct. 3. Early the next morning, historic rains flooded South Carolina, breaking dams and flooding hundreds of homes and businesses.
Among the hardest-hit areas was Forest Acres. Less than a day after saying good-bye to Mr. Alia, Forest Acres officers were helping residents flee the rising waters. Rescue efforts continued for several days.
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Some of the worst flooding was at the Trenholm Road-Forest Drive intersection, near the Forest Acres Police Department. The first floor of the department was flooded, as were several nearby businesses and homes. Mr. Alia’s patrol car was swamped.
For a week, the department worked out of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Forest Drive. Officers then moved into the second floor of their station, where they worked out of cramped quarters for more than two months.
The department also lost some contact with the public, as residents were unable to walk in the front door to ask questions or seek assistance. The front door is open once again.
A lot of work remains to be done at the station, and Sealy hopes the move-in will be completed by Jan. 31. But we hope this week’s first steps signal that the department is returning to normal — or as normal as a police department can be.
Thanks to the Forest Acres officers for setting aside their grief, ignoring their discomfort, and serving the city’s residents during and after the floods.