Thursday, December 8, 2016

Focus on law enforcement advocacy initiatives

By Tigerron Wells, Government Affairs Liaison

Continuing our weekly City Connect review of the Municipal Association’s 2017 Advocacy Initiatives, I’m pleased to provide you with some background about two of our initiatives related to law enforcement in South Carolina.

Support reliable funding for the Criminal Justice Academy to provide improved training opportunities for law enforcement officers 

The Criminal Justice Academy provides basic training and certification for almost every law enforcement officer in the state. However, the Academy’s funding is dependent almost exclusively on revenue collected from state and local fines and fees.
CJA Director Jackie Swindler briefs mayors about training requirements and funding challenges
During a recent meeting of the Association of South Carolina Mayors held at the SC Criminal Justice Academy, mayors heard from the recently appointed CJA Director Jackie Swindler, former police chief in Newberry, about this funding challenge. He also discussed the importance of hiring good officer candidates and complying with requirements for timely officer registration with the Academy and firearms training within the days following hire.

Swindler talked with the mayors about the process for police departments to get new recruits into the Academy noting that the average wait time is 52 days from the date an officer is registered. This time can be significantly shorter if the department requests the officer be added to a waiting list at the time of registration.

The mayors got a chance to walk the Academy grounds and see some of the training that their officers must complete before being certified to serve the public and protect the peace.

Back in October, Swindler also spoke to a meeting of city managers. Read more in this blog post from the managers meeting that outlines in detail Swindler’s budget proposal for the Academy.

Another conversation about CJA funding has been taking place through a law enforcement stakeholder group organized by the Association’s Risk Management Services staff. This group has been mapping a path to encourage the legislative changes needed to reach these goals. 

Increase funding for body-worn cameras

After legislation passed in 2015 mandating the statewide roll-out of body-worn cameras in every law enforcement department or agency, we have learned that the money set aside over two years was woefully inadequate to fully fund a statewide roll-out. 

In fact, with a little more than half of eligible agencies submitting grant requests in 2016, funding requests still exceeded appropriated funds by more than $7 million. This October blog post outlines how body-worn camera grant funds in the 2016 state budget were allocated. 

Increased funding and a reliable funding source are critical to ensure all law enforcement agencies have access to grants to fund their local body cameras and the software and storage to go along with them.

So, to recap, providing reliable funding for the Criminal Justice Academy and adequate funding for body-worn cameras can both measurably improve the training, safety and overall quality of one of the most critical aspects of our criminal justice system.

Read about all five of the 2017 Advocacy Initiatives.

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