Friday, August 12, 2016

New law impacts mutual aid agreements

By Tigerron Wells, government affairs liaison

In the closing days of the 2016 session, the governor signed legislation regarding mutual aid agreements. Rep. Tommy Pope of York introduced H3653 at the request of the SC Sheriffs’ Association to clarify sheriffs’ authority to enter into mutual aid agreements without the need for county council approval.

The Municipal Association closely tracked the legislation and became involved as it moved through the General Assembly. We wanted to make sure that, in clarifying sheriffs’ authority, the Legislature didn’t cause confusion for municipalities, since police chiefs are still required to seek city council approval before they can enter into this type of agreement.

The legislation that ultimately passed achieved the goal of clarifying sheriffs’ authority while maintaining municipal council authority to authorize agreements between municipal police departments and other law enforcement agencies.

While the bill’s language bars municipalities from using these agreements solely for the purpose of speed enforcement, it intentionally does not restrict municipalities from entering into this type of agreement for the broader purpose of traffic enforcement.

Importantly, the legislation also simplifies and streamlines the process of entering into mutual aid agreements by eliminating 23-1-210, 23-1-215 and 23-20-50. Municipalities operating under existing agreements that were executed based on those now-eliminated code sections should revisit them and any related ordinances or resolutions.

The Sheriffs’ Association has created a mutual aid agreement template to be used as a starting point for this type of agreement between sheriff’s departments and other law enforcement agencies. We anticipate that municipalities may be approached with these agreements in the near future, if they have not already been. 

As always, the Association encourages anyone reviewing or helping craft this type of agreement to pay special attention to potential liability issues that may need to be addressed.

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