COLUMBIA, SC — South Carolina police must come up with rules for police officers wearing body cameras by Monday or will potentially miss out on state funding.
The rules must include who is required to wear the body cameras, when the cameras should be activated and how long footage should be stored. The policies also outline how to handle people who don’t want to be recorded. The I-Team reviewed approved policies and found in North Charleston, victims and witness can opt out of talking to police, but officers aren’t allowed to turn off the video. In Dorchester County, the officer has discretion to end recording.
The policies must be submitted to the Law Enforcement Training Council at the Criminal Justice Academy for approval. Currently the Academy has received 240 policies. Of the 240 received, 179 have been approved. Four staff attorneys at the academy are responsible for reviewing the policies.
Mt Pleasant police are already using body cameras. A spokesman for the department says the video has helped officers capture more evidence and has also been a useful training tool.
If policies are approved, law enforcement agencies across the state will have until April 29th to submit applications for funding for the body cameras. The Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs will then review all applications and make recommendations for funding to the SC Public Safety Coordinating Council. Agencies will begin receiving funding some time after that.
Funding for the body cameras for more than 300 eligible agencies totals $3.4 million for 2015 and $2.4 million in recurring funds for subsequent years.
All agencies must develop guidelines regardless of when they plan to roll out body cameras. The mandate for agencies to supply officers with cameras doesn’t apply until the state provides full funding, according to the Municipal Association of SC.
“While there is limited funding available, the SCPSCC and SCDPS will make every effort to ensure the funds are distributed in a fair and equitable manner and to ensure that as many eligible entities as possible receive some share of funding for BWC, storage and maintenance,” a statement from the Department of Public Safety read.
At this time the SC Criminal Justice Academy has no plans to implement any body camera training.