“It’s a brotherhood,” said Bert DeFazio, president of the Low Country Law Enforcement Officers Association, which has grown from five to nearly 80 members, more than half of whom live in Sun City.
Founded nine years ago by Sun City resident John Pontillo, the group has members from throughout Beaufort County, both retired and active, whose mission is to support local brother and sister officers and their families.
“The LCLEOA believes in giving back and supporting groups or individuals as much as we can,” said DeFazio, chief of security at Windmill Harbour on Hilton Head Island and a former security officer at Sun City.
The group hosted a luncheon April 6 at Windmill Harbour for individuals and local organizations that received nearly $14,000 in financial assistance.
At the luncheon, Pontillo cited 100+ Women Who Care Hilton Head Island, which he said donated $6,100 in November 2015 to his group’s efforts. “If it weren’t for these women, we wouldn’t be helping as many groups as we are,” he said.
Member Jim Fitzgerald, a retired field commander with the N.Y. State Police, said the group’s focus tilts more toward the professional rather than social, with an emphasis on education, community outreach, and training.
“Training is of the utmost importance,” Fitzgerald said. “Policing today and attaining the goal of protecting the majority of society worldwide, from Brussels to Bluffton, has never been more sensitive and dangerous.”
Fitzgerald and other LCLEOA members, whose backgrounds include working for the FBI, CIA, U.S. Air Marshals and even Scotland Yard, offer firearms instruction, training, and HR-218 training and certification.
Under HR 218, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, retired officers in good standing are allowed to carry a concealed weapon in all 50 states.
Last year, Fitzgerald and member Mike Sisino, a former lieutenant with the Vermont State Police, gave a two-and-a-half-hour presentation on “21st Century Violence & Terrorism Today in the U.S. and Abroad” as guest lecturers for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at USCB that attracted 100 attendees.
Ten members work with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office’s Cold Case Squad.
Member Amy Dillon, a retired USMC drill instructor and chief marksman at Parris Island, is head firearms instructor for the Palmetto State Armory.
Since the association was formed nine years ago, DeFazio said it has donated $29,370 to local charities, organizations and individuals.
Among the donations acknowledged at the luncheon were:
$5,000 to Cpl. Stuart Mankin, a Beaufort County sheriff’s deputy recovering from cancer;
$3,000 in scholarships for family members of law enforcement;
$1,500 for Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Project Lifesaver, Alzheimer’s-dementia search and rescue;
$1,400 to Bluffton Police Department’s AED program;
$1,000 to Memory Matters, providing support for those with dementia; and
$1,000 to Lowcountry Foundation for Wounded Military Heroes.
$500 to Law Enforcement Officers Memorial
$250 to Red Cross, Bluffton
$250 to Special Olympics, Beaufort County
The group’s annual fundraiser, a car show at the Food Lion parking lot in Okatie, will be held June 11.
Meetings are held the second Monday of the month at various local restaurants. For more information, call Pontillo at 843-707-7093.
Freelance writer Pam Gallagher was a copy editor at USA Today and a staff writer and fashion editor for the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press.