Two state senators plan to pre-file legislation Wednesday requiring all law enforcement officers in South Carolina to wear body cameras that will record contact with individuals in performance of their official duties.
Senators Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, and Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, have been working on a bill for several weeks and announced their plans, along with a copy of the bill, in a news release Tuesday.
“Obviously this is a big national issue now,” Kimpson said. “This whole issue of encounters with law enforcement is not unique to Ferguson, and is very important and ripe for discussion right here in South Carolina.”
He said body cameras would help provide a clearer picture of facts, which often are disputed in allegations against law enforcement. Kimpson used the fatal shooting of Denzel Curnell, 19, as an example.
Curnell died of a gunshot wound during a struggle with a city officer. Some residents doubted officials’ account that Curnell had shot himself and remained skeptical after learning that surveillance cameras had failed to capture the incident.
The announcement of the push for statewide body cameras was made a day after President Barack Obama proposed $263 million over three years to expand training for law enforcement and to add resources for police department reforms. It includes $75 million for half the cost of 50,000 lapel-mounted cameras; state and local governments would pay for the other half.
“We got a significant step forward with the president’s commitment,” Kimpson said, adding that he did not know where the other half of the costs to outfit officers would come from. “We can roll up our sleeves and work to allocate the necessary resources to preserve the integrity of the justice system.”
The bill, as written, would require all law enforcement officers to wear a body camera to record video and audio of all interactions with individuals in the course of duty. The retention and release of the audio and video data recorded would be subject to South Carolina’s laws governing the retention and release of evidence by law enforcement agencies.