Columbia Police to Wear Body Cameras to Prevent Excessive Force

As Dispute Over Excessive Force Continues Across Country, South Carolina Law Enforcement Supports Body Cameras

excessive forceNeither police officer involved in the recent deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner was indicted on murder or manslaughter charges after they reportedly killed the African Americans for no reason. Protests across the country decry the use of excessive force that killed these two citizens, and many believe that body cameras, which would record every movement of a police officer while on duty, would help prevent such tragedies by mitigating officers’ actions and providing evidence regarding the use of excessive force to a court.

As the country rages about excessive force deaths, South Carolina is quickly taking steps to help prevent such outrage by adopting body cameras for officers. The Batesburg-Leesville Police Department has already adopted body cameras, and the police chief says the cameras have made a world of difference.

“Very easy to use,” said Patrolman Zack Adams, who uses a body camera while on duty every day. “They’re actually HD, and they record audio and video … These show everything just the way it happens.”

“If officers always do right, then we got that on video,” Adams added.

“No one from our city council or the mayor said we had to do it,” said Chief Wallace Oswald. “It’s something we took the initiative to do and search for the funds.”

“Officers knowing that they have a body camera on will be more professional in doing what they were trained to do,” he said. “A lot of times when we’ve told people that the officer had his body camera on and we would be downloading the camera and seeing what happened in the incident, in many cases, that complaint has stopped at that point. People will withdraw their complaint and forget about it, once they realize that everything was recorded on the camera.”

Meanwhile, officers with the Columbia Police Department will be required to wear body cameras by the end of next year. Mayor Steve Benjamin and Chief Skip Holbrook outlined their plan Thursday, December 4th.

“Body cameras are a game changing instrument,” Holbrook said. “It’s better to have them. It’s the responsible thing to do.”

The CPD has already experimented with the effectiveness of body cameras in preventing excessive force or violence against police officers. In August, the department purchased 12 cameras for use in the traffic division, as well as the city’s hospitality districts – especially 5 Points, which has a notoriously high crime rate.

Mayor Benjamin also said that the city will create a human rights commission consisting of seven people appointed by the city council, who will oversee issues of excessive force in criminal or civil complaints.

However, not everyone believes that body cameras will help excessive force claims. Some experts say that people not familiar with police tactics can see an incident as involving excessive force, when the officer involved is within their training.

“There’s this saying in policing: ‘It’s lawful, but awful.’ It’s technically legal to do that, but it’s a terrible thing to do … We have to work on the awful piece, that’s what we need to focus on,” said Jim Bueermann, who heads the nonprofit Police Foundation.

Protect Your Rights through Civil Litigation Against Excessive Force and Police Brutality

If you or a loved one has been a victim of police brutality or excessive force, contact our South Carolina victim’s assistance attorneys at The Strom Law Firm, LLC today for a free consultation to see how we can help.  While we cannot change the past, we can help you secure your future. 803.252.4800

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