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.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Proposal to change make-up of CTCs: No rehabilitation without representation

By Scott Slatton, legislative and public policy advocate
Last week's blog post by my colleague Casey Fields spotlighted the process of developing the Municipal Association's 2017 Advocacy Initiatives.
One of these initiatives is support for reliable road funding that helps cities and towns create and maintain economic development opportunities for our state. To help ensure road dollars flow to cities and towns, the Association supports the notion of more municipal representation on County Transportation Committees.

Over the last two years, the General Assembly has nearly tripled the amount of C Funds that are sent to each of the state’s 46 counties. C Funds are a portion of the state’s gas tax designated for local roads. County Transportation Committees (one in each county) oversee the use of C Funds. The Department of Transportation's website has lots of background about C Funds.

In some counties, the CTC and the towns in its county work well together to ensure those municipalities receive the road money they need to keep their roads in good shape. In many counties however, cities don’t receive C Funds at all, thereby putting those cities at an economic disadvantage.

To ensure cities and towns across the state have equitable access to C Funds, the Association advocates changing the law governing who is appointed to CTCs. At least one mayor, one city council member and one city employee within a county should be appointed to serve on each CTC in the state. This would guarantee that a municipal point of view is brought to each CTC and help reduce the municipal road funding disparity within some counties.

Roads are a critical part of economic development in our state. And sharing reliable road funding responsibly in each county will help all South Carolina residents.

Additional resources:
December 2016 Uptown article: Municipal Association releases 2017 Advocacy Initiatives
2015 Uptown article: background on the state of South Carolina roads