By Danny Lewis
A hot button issue in the news the past year has been police brutality. We have seen countless citizen casualties take place while in the custody of law enforcement.
There has been an uprising from citizens in places such as New York, Ferguson, Baltimore, and South Carolina with a call to hold the police accountable. The state of South Carolina has decided to take a step to change that.
“Governor Haley signed the bill alongside family members of Walter Scott, an unarmed African-American man who was fatally gunned down by North Charleston, SC Police Officer Michael Slager during an April 4 traffic stop over a malfunctioning taillight. Slager has since been fired and charged with murder over his role in the tragedy.
According to The Post and Courier, the bill grants state law enforcement agencies a nine month grace period to obtain state funding and implement the body cameras. WYFF-TV notes that it also provides funding for the cameras and prohibits the footage taken by them from being obtained by the public through a Freedom of Information Act request.”
“(C) Within one hundred eighty days after the effective date of this section, the Law Enforcement Training Council shall conduct a thorough study of the use, implementation procedures, costs, and other related aspects associated with body-worn cameras in jurisdictions with body-worn cameras currently in use or which begin their use during this period. The Law Enforcement Training Council shall develop guidelines for the use of body-worn cameras by state and local law enforcement agencies within one hundred eighty days of the effective date of this act. The guidelines must include, but are not limited to, specifying which law enforcement officers must wear body-worn cameras, when body-worn cameras must be worn and activated, restrictions on the use of body-worn cameras, the process to obtain consent of victims and witnesses before using body-worn cameras during an interview, the retention and release of data recorded by body-worn cameras, and access to the data recorded by body-worn cameras pursuant to subsection (G). The Law Enforcement Training Council shall provide the guidelines to state and local law enforcement agencies. The General Assembly may terminate all or part of the guidelines by resolution.
(D) State and local law enforcement agencies shall develop policies and procedures for the use of body-worn cameras pursuant to the guidelines established by the Law Enforcement Training Council. The agencies shall submit the policies and procedures to the Law Enforcement Training Council within two hundred seventy days of the effective date of this act. The Law Enforcement Training Council shall review and approve or disapprove of the policies and procedures. If the Law Enforcement Training Council disapproves of the policies and procedures, the law enforcement agency shall modify and resubmit the policies and procedures. The Law Enforcement Training Council, by three hundred sixty days from the effective date of this section, shall submit a report to the General Assembly which must include recommendations for statutory provisions necessary to ensure the provisions of this section are appropriately and efficiently managed and carried out and the fiscal impact associated with the use of body-worn cameras as required by this section, updated continuously as necessary.”
The law also states that “(2) The State Law Enforcement Division, the Attorney General, and a circuit solicitor may request and must receive data recorded by a body-worn camera for any legitimate criminal justice purpose.”
It also says “(3) A law enforcement agency, the State Law Enforcement Division, the Attorney General, or a circuit solicitor may release data recorded by a body-worn camera in its discretion. (4) A law enforcement agency may request and must receive data recorded by a body-worn camera if the recording is relevant to an internal investigation regarding misconduct or disciplinary action of a law enforcement officer.”
The defendant of a criminal case may also request the data from the law enforcement agency. However, the data from the cameras is not subject to public record disclosed in FOIA.
Here at Campaign for Liberty we have taken numerous stands against the police state. Although the law is a step in the right direction there are a few concerns about how it is written and how it will be implemented.
One thing we need to do as concerned citizens is ask ourselves if we can trust the state to hold the police accountable. If the state chooses to be negligent, police officers wearing body cameras will still get away with misconduct. One way we can almost guarantee that the officers will be held accountable is by changing the law to allow the data to be obtained as public record using FOIA. It is also important that the citizens stay informed on the regulation writing process. We have seen from issues such as USA Freedom Act that the public is led to believe that the law solves the problem when it doesn’t. The law could also be changed at any time without the public noticing.
Police body cameras are a great requirement if it is done right. If all Police were required to wear body cameras the public might know for sure what happens in these tragic cases. Police need to be held to Constitutional standards to avoid situations such as the murder of Walter Scott.
Tags: police state, Police, South Carolina, body cameras, Nikki Haley, Walter Scott