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Law Enforcement Reform Under Discussion in Legislative Session

The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers in 2020 and the widespread civil unrest that followed was the catalyst for law enforcement policies and procedures becoming a major topic of discussion. 

At the request of Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Darlington), the South Carolina House of Representatives established the House Equitable Justice System and Law Enforcement Reform Committee to consider several topics for reform such as hate crimes, civil asset forfeiture and law enforcement training, tactics, standards and accountability. 

One bill to emerge out of this committee’s work, H3050, moved through the House during the 2021 session, gathering components from various other bills along the way. After passing the House in 2021, the bill moved to the Senate, which referred the bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee for work during the 2022 session. 

Here are some of the provisions in the bill following the work during last year’s session: 

Failure to intervene
The bill would add to the statutory definition of misconduct “failure to intervene when observing another officer physically or psychologically abusing members of the public or prisoners.” State law requires officer misconduct be reported to the SC Criminal Justice Academy for investigation and action. 

Chokehold ban
The bill would modify state law so that the “use of a chokehold or carotid hold is justifiable only if a law enforcement officer reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to protect the life of a civilian or a law enforcement officer.” Unjustified use of these holds could result in criminal prosecution. The bill would direct the SC Law Enforcement Training Council to provide training on when these holds are justified. 

New minimum standards 
H3050 would create numerous minimum operating standards for law enforcement agencies to adopt regarding these topics:

  • Use of force under various circumstances
  • Vehicle pursuits
  • Duty to intervene in the actions of another officer
  • Hiring and firing practices
  • Mandatory field training for officers who have graduated from the SC Criminal Justice Academy
  • Use of body-worn cameras 
  • “No-knock” warrants
  • Processes for filing complaints against agencies and employees, and investigating those complaints
  • An “early warning” system to track problematic employee behavior and intervene when needed 
Training Council Compliance Division
The bill would also create a Law Enforcement Training Division Council to inspect the procedures of every South Carolina law enforcement agency once every three years and take corrective actions against noncompliant agencies. Agencies already accredited with the SC Law Enforcement Accreditation Council or Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies would be exempt from this requirement. 

Fines and penalties 
H3050 would establish a structure for civil fines to bring noncompliant law enforcement agencies into compliance. In cases where fines do not prompt a law enforcement agency to make changes, the bill would allow the Training Council to temporarily suspend the certifications of the officers working for the noncompliant agency.