Agents of the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) have found themselves busy investigating a recent rash of officer-involved shootings across the Palmetto State. Within the last two weeks, there have been five such incidents in South Carolina – in Aiken, Lexington, Marion, Richland and York counties.
Thankfully, as of this writing there have been no fatalities associated with any of the recent shootings. In fact in all but one of the incidents, both officers and suspects were either uninjured or sustained non-life threatening injuries.
All told, there have been 33 officer-involved shootings in South Carolina through the first 256 days of the year – putting the state on a potentially record-breaking pace as it approaches the end of summer.
SLED investigates officer-involved shootings as a matter of protocol in the vast majority of local law enforcement jurisdictions in the Palmetto State – presenting investigative reports to the solicitor with jurisdiction over the county or municipality where the shooting transpired.
At that point, the solicitor makes a determination as to whether the officer(s) involved acted properly in discharging their weapons.
SLED also arrests suspects in connection with officer-involved shootings – as it did in the Richland county shooting that took place on the campus of Allen University on Saturday. This adds another layer of independence to the investigatory process. Again, the ultimate decision as to whether to charge suspects in connection with officer-involved shootings resides with the local solicitor (whose decisions are subject to oversight by the office of the S.C. attorney general).
This news outlet has covered dozens of officer-involved shootings over the years, but each one of these incidents is under a microscope (and rightfully so) in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Memorial Day.
That tragic incident – which sparked spasms of mob violence across the nation – has prompted a discussion in South Carolina over possible reforms to law enforcement procedures. We support such a conversation, and we believe the Palmetto State’s law enforcement advocates have been honest brokers in that process – proposing any number of substantive reforms.
In the meantime, SLED has consistently drawn high marks for the professionalism, objectivity and accuracy it brings to these inquiries.
Legislation aimed at formalizing SLED’s statewide role in investigating officer-involved shootings was introduced last year by S.C. senator Gerald Malloy, however Richland County, S.C. sheriff Leon Lott – one of the only local law enforcement leaders whose agency investigates its own officer-involved shootings – has organized resistance to the bill.
Hopefully this resistance will falter, as we believe this is one of the keys to the reform conversation currently taking place at the S.C. State House.
For those of you following the numbers, there were a total of 45 officer-involved shootings in South Carolina last year – four shy of the record of 49 set in 2017. As of this writing, the state is on pace to see 47 officer-involved shootings in 2020.
For updates on the status of these inquiries, check out the newsroom page on SLED’s updated website …
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