The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) says it hopes a revamped screening process will assist the agency in its hiring practices – although the leader of the division told us these changes have been in the works for some time and are “not necessarily” in response to a pair of recent personnel scandals.
Two recent cases have raised questions about whether SLED properly vetted the agents it hired – particularly a pair of black agents hired from The Citadel, South Carolina’s government-run military institution.
In June of 2016, then-SLED agent Rodney Bostick was arrested and charged with kidnapping, misconduct in office and three counts of domestic violence in connection with numerous incidents involving multiple women. One of the women was fellow SLED agent, another was a deputy prosecutor.
Both women – one of whom was white, the other black – were romantically involved with Bostick.
Bostick was accused of choking both of these women and threatening to kill one of them after she kicked him out of their shared residence. One of the incidents reportedly took place while a child was present.
SLED chief Mark Keel arrested Bostic personally last July on multiple charges.
Keel also personally responded to our founding editor Will Folks – who reached out to SLED this week with questions about Bostick’s case as well as the case of Jamaal Bradley, another former SLED agent whose career at the agency ended earlier this year after he was accused of sexually accosting a fellow female employee.
“We got a complaint on the Bostick case, we worked the case, we got (several) warrants,” Keel told us, referring to the first case. “We charged him with very serious crimes.”
That’s true …
However, Bostick was eventually allowed to plead guilty to a pair of misdemeanor assault and battery charges. He was given credit for thirteen months served behind bars and released last month.
Several female employees at SLED were livid over the resolution of the Bostick case, arguing that he should have served more prison time given the seriousness of the charges filed against him.
We concur …
They also claim that SLED failed to push for justice in his case.
“They didn’t stick up for our agent – who still works here,” one female SLED agent told us, referring to her colleague.
(Click to view)
Keel told Folks he agreed the resolution of the case was not satisfactory.
“Is it what we wanted it to be? No,” he said, however he added that his agency is only responsible for bringing charges against suspects.
“We make the case and then we turn it over to the prosecutors,” Keel said.
As for the Bradley case, allegations were made by a female SLED employee in the aftermath of an incident that allegedly took place this spring in the Port of Port Royal, S.C.
Port Royal police opened an investigation into the allegations on May 10 but closed the case less than a month later – with no charges filed against Bradley. SLED launched a follow-up investigation, though, and ultimately determined Bradley was no longer to be employed at the agency.
He resigned his post, but we’re told had he not stepped down Keel was prepared to terminate him from his position.
The cases involving Bostick and Bradley have angered female SLED agents – several of whom spoke confidentially with this news site. Not only are these women upset about what they perceive to be a lack of justice for their female colleagues, they believe SLED dropped the ball in hiring both men.
“What message is this sending to us?” one female agent told us. “I don’t care about the harassment. I can take care of myself. I care when people cross the line – and get to walk.”
“We come to work in the business of protecting people,” another female agent told us bluntly. “It doesn’t help when you realize one of the ones you need to keep your eye on is a fellow employee.”
The Bostick case in particular has created considerable animosity within the agency – particularly in light of a 2013 civil lawsuit in which he was accused of harassing behavior toward a female instructor at The Citadel.
“Any smart investigator assigned to his background would have found it and questioned him about it,” one female SLED agent told us.
“They should have known,” the source added.
Keel said The Citadel case involved defamation charges against Bostick, not criminal charges – but he did say agents were looking deeper into legal actions involving prospective hires.
“You try to go out and hire the very best people you can hire – you try to do the best you can do to make sure you’re getting the best,” Keel said. “Sometimes you don’t have good luck. Sometimes you don’t get the person you thought you got.”
Keel told our founding editor his agency is also “looking differently at what we’re doing with our psychological evaluations,” but added that those efforts have been evolving over time and “are not necessarily as a result of these cases.”
Keel told us he welcomes criticism of SLED’s processes – even anonymous criticism from within his own agency.
“We don’t mind critical evaluation of our methods,” he told us. “We want to hire good people. Anything we can do to improve the integrity of our processes, we’re open to that.”`
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our stories? Please feel free to submit your own guest column or letter to the editor via-email HERE. Got a tip for us? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question? CLICK HERE. Want to support what we’re doing? SUBSCRIBE HERE.