Excessive Force Video Illustrates Columbia’s Need for Body Cameras

Latest Cell Phone Video of Excessive Force in Columbia Shows Need for Officers to Wear Body Cameras

excessive forceA 15-second cell phone video was released on the internet, showing a Columbia police officer brutally beating a suspect laying on the ground. The excessive force is just the latest example, according to both police officers and safety advocates, of the need for police in South Carolina and around the country to wear body cameras.

“If you don’t have the whole sequence, you don’t know what caused the officer to do that,” said John O’Leary, a former director of the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy. “Body cameras can’t hurt police – it’s just going to reveal the facts, either good or bad. They will also make the officer think twice before he loses his temper or overreacts … Everybody else has cameras these days, but they’re only going to photograph part of the situation.”

The video showing excessive force is still under investigation within the CPD, but a partial picture of the 15-second incident is beginning to emerge. On Sunday, January 18th, several hundred young people, mostly students at Benedict College according to reports, spilled out of a dance club hosting a birthday party and onto Blanding Street. A fight broke out, and five off-duty police officers who were providing security at the event responded to the violence.

Robyn Hogg, the young woman who took the video, can be heard in the background yelling, “Why are you punching him?” as she filmed an officer pinning a young man to the ground, yelling, “Stay on the ground!” and punching the victim with what appear to be his fists.

Hogg’s excessive force video went viral and the officer has reportedly been suspended without pay, according to Police Chief Skip Holbrook. The victim, who has not been identified, was never charged with any crime.

“This certainly makes it clear why we need body cameras,” said state Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland.

At a press conference discussing Columbia’s 2014 crime statistics, Sheriff Leon Lott commended that the CPD has been using body cameras to clarify incidents of potential excessive force for some time.

“We have been trying out body cameras for over two years,” Lott said. “This is not anything new to us.”

However, he added that body cameras are “very expensive,” and often have “a lot of bugs to be worked out.” So the solution, according to Sheriff Lott, is imperfect.

“It’s not the cure all for what some people may think it is,” Lott said. “You just can’t go buy any type of camera and put it on a deputy. You’ve got to have policies, you’ve got to have procedures, you’ve got to have storage and who gets access to it, when do they turn it on, when do they turn it off.”

“You have legislators that holler and scream, ‘Let’s get everybody on a body cam,’ but who’s going to pay for it? If the state or the federal government fully funds it, I’d go get every one of them today,” Lott said.

Still, most safety advocates and many police officers believe that body cameras can not only illuminate incidents of excessive force, but can help keep police officers safe from violent criminals. “Body cameras are a game changing instrument,” Holbrook said. “It’s better to have them. It’s the responsible thing to do.”

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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