South Carolina lawmakers agree that Body Cameras are necessary, - DatelineCarolina

South Carolina lawmakers agree police body cameras are necessary.

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South Carolina St. Senator Joel Lourie says lawmakers are in general agreement that body cameras are a good idea. South Carolina St. Senator Joel Lourie says lawmakers are in general agreement that body cameras are a good idea.
This image shows how footage from a body camera would appear. This image shows how footage from a body camera would appear.
Rep. Joe Neal thinks body cameras will help police officers be transparent. Rep. Joe Neal thinks body cameras will help police officers be transparent.

By: Kelly Wiley

A white police officer in North Charleston faces murder charges after shooting and killing a black man after a traffic stop. The decision to charge Michael Slager came after a bystander's cell phone video surfaced that showed Slager firing several shots into the back of Walter Scott, who was running away.

This is just the most recent in a series of incidents that have made lawmakers nationwide, and particularly some in South Carolina, question whether all police officers should be required to wear body cameras to ensure police accountability.

Those lawmakers believe body cameras are a necessary to help get to the truth of what happened in incidents like the one in North Charleston. South Carolina State Sen. Joel Lourie says the support for this technology is “no different than dashcams.”

“I think there is general agreement that it's a good idea,” said Lourie.

Representative Joe Neal proposed the body camera legislation in South Carolina, and believes that this technology will be able to show if police are following their training. 

“The officer need to be able to have indisputable proof that ever action that officer took was necessary. I think the body camera will produce that,” said Neal.

Lawmakers have proposed three possible actions to ensure police accountability: require all officers to wear body cameras, require SLED to investigate every officer involved shooting and requiring police agencies report any claims of racial profiling to SLED.

 South Carolina law enforcement agencies are not now required to call SLED in to investigate officer involved shootings chosing to investigate them in-house.

Representative Joe Neal is introducing legislation that would change that. 

“I think in order for there to be trust and transparency and accountability. I think that SLED needs to be the agency to investigate these shootings,” said Neal.

SLED records indicate on average there are 36 police shootings a year in South Carolina over the last five years.

University of South Carolina law professor Colin Miller says critics cite the cost of the cameras as a possible issue but lawmakers believe the benefits outweigh the costs.

“The biggest question is cost, obviously, but as this Walter Scott shooting case is underscored we simply cant trust the word of police officers,“ said Miller.

Most lawmakers, like Lourie, agree that changes are needed and the new technology will benefit both law enforcement and the public.

“You've got some bad apples and when you have bad apples in this profession the results are very tragic,” said Lourie.

In December President Obama called for $260 million in federal money to be matched by state funding for body cameras.  That would pay for more than 50,000 devices.

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