Requiring Officer Involved Shootings be Investigated by Uninvolved Agencies

Companion bills S.650, H.3973, H.3990, and H.3991 all attempt to remove conflicts of interests and reduce public skepticism in the investigation of officer involved shootings. The bills seek to achieve these goals by preventing police departments or agencies from conducting internal investigations of officer involved shootings that “resulted in, or could have resulted, in bodily injury or death”.

The bills lay out several specific procedures to avoid internal investigations of shootings.

  • The State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is given exclusive jurisdiction over the investigation of officer involved shootings.
  • However, if the officer involved in the shooting is employed by SLED, the sheriff’s department with jurisdiction over the area where the shooting occurred shall conduct the investigation (if the sheriff’s department lacks the capacity for a proper investigation they must defer the investigation to another law enforcement agency)
  • If an officer involved shooting occurs that includes an employee of SLED and the sheriff’s department with area jurisdiction, the solicitor shall refer the investigation to another law enforcement agency.
  • If a shooting involving a SLED employee is the object of the investigation, forensic evidence collected at the scene of the shooting must be analyzed by an accredited state law enforcement laboratory outside South Carolina.
  • When completed, all investigations must be “forwarded to the solicitor’s office in the jurisdiction where the shooting occurred prior to the initiation or declination of any formal criminal action.”

Employees of the public sector should seek to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest whenever possible. Requiring independent investigations of officer involved shootings will reduce the possibility of malfeasance in investigation of police shootings, however likely or unlikely it may be, and will help demonstrate to the public that their justice system is serious about producing a just outcome whether it is investigating a private citizen or a police officer.

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