Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Body camera guidelines released

By Tigerron Wells, Government Affairs Liaison
It’s always nice to hear when South Carolina is first at something good. Back in June, South Carolina became the first state in the nation to pass legislation requiring state and local law enforcement officers to wear body worn cameras while performing their duties.

The legislation, conceived and introduced by Senator Gerald Malloy and championed by Senator Marlon Kimpson, initially struggled to pass a Senate Judiciary subcommittee until the tragic death of motorist Walter Scott at the hands of a North Charleston policeman drew the nation’s attention and galvanized the legislature. 

This new law required the state’s Law Enforcement Training Council to create, within 180 days of the legislation’s effective date, guidelines for the use of body worn cameras. These guidelines would then be used by state and local law enforcement agencies to create their own body camera policies.
All agencies must develop guidelines regardless of when they plan to roll out body cameras. The mandate for agencies to supply officers with cameras doesn’t apply until the state provides full funding.

On December 7, 2015, the Training Council officially adopted its statewide guidelines. The guidelines address which officers must wear body cameras, when they must be worn and activated, when officers are restricted from recording, and when officers may deactivate their cameras.

The guidelines also make it clear that officers are not required to seek permission from the party being recorded, and lay out in greater detail the circumstances under which video created by the body camera may be released to the public or reviewed by the officer. Video created by the cameras is exempt from FOIA.

State and local law enforcement agencies now have until March 7, 2015, to submit their policies to the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy for approval. All policies should be forwarded to James Fennel, general counsel of the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, at

Agencies that have already rolled out body cameras must also institute policies based on these guidelines or make any necessary changes to existing policies so their policies are consistent with the new guidelines.

Once an agency’s body camera policy is approved by the Academy, the agency can apply to the Department of Public Safety’s Public Safety Coordinating Council for funds to cover the costs of the rollout. The fund was established by the General Assembly to cover the initial cost of equipment, replacement, maintenance and data storage related to the body cameras. It also covers reimbursement for agencies that have already started using cameras.

Agencies should take into consideration projected costs over at least several years when applying for funds since it is unlikely, without an increase in state funds allocated, that grantees will receive funding on an annual basis.  

Letter of explanation

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