By Jisoo Lee
Special to Midlands Anchor
Richland County Sheriff’s Dept. (RCSD) Corporal Marcus Kim is one of several highly visible faces of the department’s community outreach efforts, specifically the RCSD’s Community Action Team (CAT).
A near-10-year veteran of the department; Cpl. Kim began his career working on the front desk. He then moved to patrol officer, and in 2010 became a supervisor – today leading one of two teams – on the RCSD’s CAT Team. He’s also the RCSD’s unmanned aerial vehicle “drone” pilot, a special responsibility for which he was featured in the Apr. 2017 edition of S.W.A.T. magazine, a major national publication.
A Columbia native – having graduated from A.C. Flora High School, the Univ. of South Carolina, and the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy – Cpl. Kim’s parents are originally from Pusan, Korea; a country he’s visited twice and of which he speaks the language fluently.
As a writing project for the Northeast (Columbia) Arts Academy, I recently sat down with Cpl. Kim and discussed everything about his work from his fears to his most rewarding experience as a law enforcement officer.
JISOO LEE: WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF BEING A MEMBER OF THE RICHLAND COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPT., SPECIFICALLY THE COMMUNITY ACTION TEAM?
Corporal Marcus Kim: “I like to help people, and I enjoy helping others solve their problems and then see them smile. I feel good when we are able to help others.”
LEE: WHAT EXACTLY IS THE COMMUNITY ACTION TEAM?
KIM: “The Community Action Team is a unit within the Sheriff’s Dept. that is trained and organized to go out into the community and resolve issues, dealing with everything from community complaints like problems with neighbors, to drug issues or other criminal activity. If we maintain a strong, positive, friendly relationship with the communities in which we work, then it helps us reduce criminal activity and solve crimes. But I really like to think of us as a team that simply helps and guides people.”
LEE: SO YOU’RE SORT OF LIKE A SCHOOL GUIDANCE COUNSELOR HELPING STUDENTS, EXCEPT YOU WORK WITH ADULTS?
KIM: “That is a great way of putting it. That’s actually spot-on! Taking it a step further, we try to be a friend to others, making them feel safe, earning their trust.”
LEE: YOU SPEAK KOREAN. I DO TOO. HOW DOES YOUR ABILITY TO SPEAK A FOREIGN LANGUAGE HELP YOU IN YOUR WORK?
KIM: “I am responsible for reaching out directly to the Korean community – about 4,000 people countywide – and helping them in any way, always trying to communicate with them, and often speaking in the Korean language with them in order to bridge the gap. I often need to speak Korean when a Korean person with broken English cannot fully understand or is unable to adequately communicate – because of the language barrier – their needs to someone else.”
LEE: IS YOUR WORK VERY DANGEROUS, AND IF SO ARE YOU EVER FRIGHTENED?
KIM: “It can be dangerous. We don’t know what we’re going to deal with each day, because violent incidents do occur. We never know when, and we need to be prepared to use appropriate force to protect ourselves and defend others. It’s a day-by-day thing. But I wouldn’t say I am frightened unless there is someone or some situation I prudently should be frightened of so that I may properly respond.”
LEE: WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR TOUGHEST EXPERIENCE AS A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER?
KIM: “I suppose it was following a homicide at a local restaurant. A man was shot and killed. He was a leader and a well-respected man in the Korean community. Many people had gathered. They knew something had happened. They knew it was bad. But they weren’t sure what had happened. I had to break the news to them. It was devastating for the family. It was hard for me too, because I knew him.”
LEE: WHAT MIGHT BE YOUR HAPPIEST OR MOST-REWARDING MOMENT?
KIM: “This is a hard question. I remember when there was an elderly Korean lady trying to escape the care home where she was living. She was very mentally sharp. Several deputies were on scene and wanted to assist, but did not want to physically force her to comply because she was elderly, in her eighties. I went to her and I spoke to her first in English, then Korean, telling her I was Korean too, and that I knew what she was going through. Then after a few minutes she just peacefully returned to her spot and complied. Everyone asked me what I said, but I just told them it was very simple. We both spoke the same language.”
LEE: WHAT MIGHT WE ADD TO THIS DISCUSSION?
KIM: I, the Sheriff and everyone else in the department, want the communities we serve to know that we’re here to help, and it doesn’t cost anything to contact us. Please give us a call if you have a question or concern about anything. People need to understand that we are here to help you, and we will always help you.”
– Ten-year-old Jisoo Lee’s work was first published in Oct. 2016. She has studied creative writing at the Northeast (Columbia) Arts Academy since Feb. 2016. She has just completed 5th grade at Polo Road Elementary School where she was a “QuEST” (advanced placement program) student. Jisoo will attend E.L. Wright Middle School in the fall where she will be enrolled in the Leadership Academy at Wright (LAW) program. She speaks, reads, and writes both Korean and English languages fluently.