Reuben Greenberg, the charismatic police chief who reduced crime and helped transform Charleston, S.C., into a tourism Mecca, retired yeserday. Greenberg, 62, cited his health and age for his abrupt retirement after 23 years. He had been suspended after an altercation with a motorist this month. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley says his 1982 hiring of Greenberg, an observant, conservative African-American Jew who made extensive community and interfaith connections, was the best decision he ever made. Greenberg had been considered for jobs in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte.
“When he arrived, the crime rate was high, the fear of crime was great,” Riley said. “People were afraid to walk down the street to church or to go to the park. Reuben came in, and he gave us policies and a stated mission to take back the streets.” Nine days ago, Riley asked Greenberg to take time off and get a physical after motorist Katrina Epps called 911 when she saw someone driving a police pickup erratically. Greenberg heard her make the call on his police radio, got out and punched her door four times with enough force to leave a knuckle print. Columbia City manager and former Police Chief Charles Austin said that incident won't “tarnish what has otherwise been a brilliant career.”