In May 2022, the South Carolina General Assembly passed Act 218, also known as the Law Enforcement Betterment Bill.
This legislation codified many law enforcement standards statewide and has become part of an ongoing effort in recent years to improve upon best practices and address the risk management needs of police departments.
Here are key points of the law that city and town officials need to know:
Effective July 1, 2022, recruits who have not yet attained certification from the SC Criminal Justice Academy cannot work as law enforcement officers unless accompanied by a certified officer at all times. Communication by radio or phone is not sufficient to fulfill this requirement.
Failure to intervene and misconduct reporting
The law added to the definitions of officer misconduct, found at SC Code Section 23-23-150
, “the willful failure to intervene” and “the willful and knowing failure to promptly report another officer” for abusing someone. These sections of the law seek to reduce officer abuse and hold them accountable in instances of misconduct.
The law also requires agencies to report officer misconduct to the SCCJA within 15 days of the final agency or department action resulting from an internal investigation.
Chokeholds and carotid holds
SC Code Section 23-1-250
now states that the use of a chokehold restricting airflow or a carotid hold restricting blood flow is allowed only in cases where the use of deadly force is justified, such as when a person’s life is in danger. This section also directs the Law Enforcement Training Council to develop training and standards for chokeholds and carotid holds.
Minimum standards and policies
Act 218 updated and mandates a set of minimum standards for law enforcement agencies. The new standards take effect January 1, 2023. These minimum standards deal with policies regarding the following areas that were identified by the General Assembly,
- Use of force and response to resistance.
- Uniform vehicle pursuit standards.
- An officer’s duty to intervene in the actions of other observed officers.
- Hiring and terminating practices.
- Mandatory and uniform post-basic academy field training.
- The use of body-worn cameras.
- Use of “no-knock” warrants.
- Systems and processes for filing and investigating complaints.
- An early-warning system for at-risk officer behavior.
Police departments may establish additional standards that are more restrictive, however they may not use standards that are less restrictive. Each policy must include the required elements ("standards") established by the Law Enforcement Training Council.
The SC Criminal Justice Academy’s website contains sample policies that local agencies can use as a starting point, and adapt them to fit the size and needs of the agency.
The law calls for the Law Enforcement Training Council to establish a compliance division to review the minimum standards every three years and make sure that departments are complying with them.
The enforcement mechanisms created by the law for noncompliant departments are significant. Penalties include fines of up to $1,000 per violation per day. The Training Council may also “hold in abeyance,” or temporarily suspend, the certification of every officer working for a department. This would functionally block the department’s ability to enforce the law until the compliance issue is resolved.
(Select Required Standards in the top navigation of the SCCJA website for the sample policies.)