A proposal before the South Carolina House of Representatives would allow police officers fired for misconduct to appeal their cases immediately.
Current state law requires the state Criminal Justice Academy, which certifies law enforcement officers, to investigate and potentially suspend or revoke that certification if the officer is later fired for misconduct.
However, State Rep. Eddie Tallon said the current regulations do not allow an officer to challenge that punishment unless they are later hired by another agency. “The way it stands, he can’t even request a hearing unless he goes to work for another law enforcement agency and tries to get his certification back,” Tallon told South Carolina Radio Network.
The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation last week which would allow an officer to challenge his or her punishment in a contested case hearing, even if that officer is not currently employed at a law enforcement agency. However, it would also set a 60-day limit for the officer to file an appeal instead of the current law’s indefinite deadline.
Tallon said another requirement that the academy’s Law Enforcement Training Council schedule a hearing within two months of that appeal could also help settle the case relatively quickly. “Currently, he’s got a process that he has to go through. And there’s no time limit so it could drag on for a good while.”
Criminal Justice Academy general counsel Jimmy Fennell said there were 119 cases of officer misconduct reported to it last year, including officers who resigned or were fired. Current law allows the officer to work at another agency for up to a year without certification.
The bill would also change how hearings are handled, allowing for training council attorneys to handle the hearing and report testimony to the full council. Tallon said that would save time, since all 11 council members have other jobs as police chiefs, sheriffs or state agency heads.
Some legislators said they had concerns that civilians would not play a role in the appeals process. “Given what we’ve had in South Carolina the last few years with law enforcement, why don’t we have someone independent of them do this?” State Rep. Cezar McKnight, D-Kingstree.
The measure could be taken up on the House floor later this week.