Hail to the Chief

Hail to the Chief

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It was supposed to be a quiet day. Like the day before and the day after. Like every day in the small, rural town of Bishopville, S.C.

Just five days before, the residents had gathered in a standing room–only ceremony to witness what was a pretty big deal in these parts: Socrates “Sonny” Ledda ’97 was being sworn in as chief of police.

“Lace those shoes up good because tomorrow we hit the ground running,” he’d told Bishopville officers during the Sunday ceremony.

He had no idea just how right he was. That Friday he received a call: Two men had just robbed a local bank.

“And that was my first week on the job,” says Ledda, who knows how to act fast – having served as a civilian police officer in South Baghdad, Iraq, and as a trainer of Iraqi police cadets.

When Ledda speaks about his career, he tends to skip over his accomplishments, which are many. He would rather share stories about his wife and children, his love for his country, community and faith. But when pushed a little more, Ledda, a soldier to his core, rattles off his professional journey as if replying to a drill sergeant, fast and factual: Two years in the military after high school. Two years studying political science at the College. A request from the College to “reconsider his academic options.” (“Let’s just say I didn’t make the Dean’s List,” he laughs.) Another four-year term in the military. Operation Desert Storm. Kuwait. Saudi Arabia. Iraq. Back to the College, where he met Martha Arscott Ledda ’90, his wife of 16 years. The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. The South Carolina Fire Academy. More years, more life-changing experiences.

But it’s the time Ledda spent at the College that had one of the most profound effects on his career and life.

“The friendships that I made and the interactions that I had at the College really helped me in both my military and civilian career as a police officer and now police chief,” he says. “Anything that I may have achieved in my personal and professional life, I didn’t do on my own. As President Obama said, ‘I didn’t build all of this by myself.’ And I believe the person that I am today has been molded by the folks that I’ve come into contact with.”

And the people he’s come into contact with since he moved to Bishopville in December 2012 are no different. Every person has welcomed him with open arms, perhaps because – as some locals may say – Bishopville isn’t just a town, it’s a fun-loving, close-knit family.

“It’s a great town with great people. I’m proud to be a member of the community,” says Ledda, who is also proud of his position there. “It’s a very important job because I am ultimately responsible for the safety of this community and the careers and lives of the 12 officers under my charge.”

And the accomplishment of being South Carolina’s first police chief of Asian descent isn’t lost on him, either.

“That distinction means quite a lot to me,” says Ledda, a military brat of Filipino descent. “My father, when he was in the Navy, he wasn’t allowed to hold any sort of authority or supervisory positions. It just meant the world to my father when he came to Bishopville and saw me being sworn in as top officer of this community.”

Since being sworn in, Ledda has received a variety of calls, from shoplifting to assault. And – although his favorite calls are “the ones where we are immediately able to help someone, even if they just locked their keys in the car” – he’s always ready for those not-so-quiet days, too.

As for that notorious bank robbery: The suspects have yet to be found, but the police force did recover most of the money in the getaway van after the dye pack had activated, and – much to the tellers’ relief – it turns out the weapons the robbers had brandished were replicas.

Even so, it was far from a quiet day for this Bishopville chief of police. But one that he was ready for.

– Ashley Lewis Ford ’07