168 SC law enforcement agencies to get body camera funds

 

COLUMBIA — More than 160 law enforcement agencies across South Carolina will split the $5.8 million legislators provided for police body cameras, their maintenance and video storage.

The state’s Public Safety Coordinating Council is distributing the money to all 168 agencies that applied for funding. That includes four solicitors’ offices, Ports Authority police, and public safety at four airports and 16 colleges.

In all, the agencies requested $13.8 million; 31 applications were fully funded by the council’s votes last week, said Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Sherri Iacobelli.

The council isn’t yet announcing how much each agency will get. Notifications will be sent with the money after the fiscal year starts next month, she said.

But Sen. Greg Hembree, a council member, said Thursday the smallest agencies will receive 100 percent of their request, mid-size agencies roughly 75 percent and the largest agencies about half.

The goal was to spread the limited money as fairly as possible, focusing on tiny departments that likely can’t buy cameras otherwise, he said.

That could mean McBee Police, for example, will receive all $1,852 it requested. That’s enough to buy three cameras and fully equip the department in rural Chesterfield County, said town administrator Terri King.

“We wanted to try to get as many in the field as we could,” said Hembree, R-North Myrtle Beach, a former solicitor. “I feel confident we can get everybody at 100 percent in the not-too-distant future.”

Dozens of larger agencies have already bought cameras, he said. The law passed last June, which sets up the grant process, allows agencies to be reimbursed.

Hembree said that was meant to encourage agencies not to wait on state money to equip officers, since legislators knew funding would be a multi-year process.

North Charleston Police sought $115,048 in its application as reimbursement for about 230 of the 275 cameras it has bought so far. The city is buying an additional 100 cameras in the coming fiscal year, which will equip all of its certified officers, said spokesman Spencer Pryor.

How much it will cost to outfit officers statewide is still unknown. There are roughly 300 law enforcement agencies in South Carolina.

Last year’s law required all state and local law enforcement agencies to adopt policies on body cameras – including which officers should wear them and when. But it specifies they don’t have to follow the policies until the agencies receive “full funding.”

Under model guidelines issued by the Law Enforcement Training Council in December, that would mean enough money to equip all of an agency’s uniformed officers whose primary duty is to respond to calls and “interact with the public.”

Agencies with council-approved policies had until April 29 to apply for some of the $5.8 million legislators designated for body camera expenses – $3.4 million in this year’s budget and $2.4 million in the budget that takes effect July 1.

The law provides no penalty for an agency that ignores its requirements.

Legislators passed it two months after a bystander’s video showed a white North Charleston police officer shooting a fleeing, unarmed black man to death. The officer was swiftly fired and charged with murder. Michael Slager is set to go on trial Oct. 31 for the April 2015 death of Walter Scott.

 

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