Charleston Police announced Tuesday they have now issued body cameras to all 300 of the department’s patrol officers and supervisors.
The department had already begun studying the cameras even before a 2015 state law required all agencies to start using them. Charleston began issuing cameras to its officers in June 2015, helped with state money from the Public Safety Coordinating Council and donations from the Charleston Police Fund.
South Carolina’s legislature began encouraging departments to use the cameras in the aftermath of the Walter Scott shooting in March 2015, when a North Charleston officer was accused of killing the unarmed Scott as he fled a struggle. The officer Michael Slager was charged after a bystander’s cell phone video contradicted some of Slager’s account and showed the officer had fired at Scott’s back.
“A lot of times, people come in and they’ll complain about the way an officer behaved or about something that they did,” Police Chief Greg Mullen said in a statement. “And what we have been able to determine across the country is, when departments are utilizing this technology, their citizen complaints go down because, obviously, when you’re being recorded you’re on your best behavior — not only from a citizen’s perspective, but from an officer’s perspective.”
All police departments in South Carolina were required to come up with body camera usage and storage policies last year under the new law. Departments are supposed to have all of their patrol officers equipped with the cameras, but that requirement hinges on them being able to acquire the proper equipment. The Public Safety Coordinating Council awarded $5.8 million in grants this past summer, but much more will be needed to cover all law enforcement agency needs in South Carolina.