Body camera law
As more and more law enforcement officers throughout the state strap on body cameras to do their work, both the officers and the people with whom they interact are safer, and more accountable.
People who disagree with an officer’s version of an encounter can go to the videotape to be proved right — or wrong. When officers are accused of using too much force, for example, they can use video to acquit themselves — or not.
But rules unanimously approved by top state law enforcement officials on Dec. 4 leave out an important stakeholder in those situations: the public.
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According to the guidelines, footage will be released only if approved by SLED, the attorney general or a circuit solicitor. The law, adopted six months ago, states that data from body cameras are not subject to the S.C. Freedom of Information Act … .
That’s a serious flaw.
Yes, the images of Citadel cadets wearing garb similar to Ku Klux Klan hoods in a social media post last week are horrendous.
The school’s president, retired Lt. Gen. John Rosa, called the images “offensive and disturbing.” He has suspended at least eight students involved … .
Despite Rosa’s swift action to suspend those involved and launch an investigation to determine if the scene was racially motivated, the National Action Network called for The Citadel president’s resignation at a news conference Friday on the school’s grounds. That is not the answer.
Firstly, the cadets involved might have had no intention of invoking the image of the Klan with the attire they say was meant to cast them as “ghosts” of the past. If that is the case, they are guilty of being foolish and not realizing how the images would be received in a community and on a campus where racial struggles have played out for decades. The other possibility is that they had every intention of making a direct statement of discrimination.
In either case, Rosa has acted quickly and clearly stated that neither possibility is acceptable to him nor the institution he leads.
In a state budget of more than $7 billion, $5.3 million (for a Confederate flag display) may seem like a pittance — but it shouldn’t if you consider that South Carolina’s taxpayers, including many who consider the symbol offensive, would pay the tab. And it shouldn’t if you consider the state’s many pressing needs, which should be higher priorities.
If the General Assembly were to approve this expenditure, this would be $5.3 million that couldn’t go toward, for example, fixing our dilapidated infrastructure. The state Department of Transportation estimates that repairing our roads and bridges will cost $40 billion over the next 25 years.
It would be $5.3 million that couldn’t go toward addressing education — and a state Supreme Court mandate to remedy the plight of South Carolina’s rural schools, including its aptly named “Corridor of Shame.”
It would be $5.3 million that couldn’t go toward the devastating damage caused in much of the state by recent flooding
(T)he Confederate flag does hold a significant place in South Carolina history, for better or worse. There are those who argue that it is an enduring symbol of brave Civil War ancestors who fought and often died valiantly for the South, while others see it as a reminder of the violent, racist era of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.
Either way, the museum is an appropriate venue for its display. But at what price? Not $5.3 million. Not when the state has so many genuine needs.