The whole picture: Investigating transparency with body cameras

(WSPA) – In 2015, Walter Scott was shot by North Charleston Police Office Michael Slager. A witness video had a profound impact on that investigation, so much so, that Governor Nikki Haley signed the “Walter Scott law” requiring all departments to wear body cameras.

Funding has been an issue for many departments, including the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office. Starting March 14th 300 officers will receive those body cameras, they will capture thousands of hours of videos, but who will get to see them?

The South Carolina law Nikki Haley signed, lets each department decide whether or not their video will be released under Freedom of Information Act.

Right now Greenville County is writing their policy for body cameras, when deputies will turn them on, how the video will be stored and reviewed.

Sheriff Will Lewis says that the video will not be reviewed on a regular basis, but that Use of Force cases will always be reviewed. Deputies will turn them on for individual calls, instead of having them on all day, and they can eventually sync with the new dash cameras.

Our investigation revealed that none of the officer involved shootings in 2016 in Greenville County were captured on video, that includes the deadly shooting of Reginald Dogan. Dogan was shot and killed at a Taylors Wal-Mart, one of the deputies that was involved had a dash camera in their car, but that VHS tape had been full for over a year, not allowing the shooting to be captured.

Through a records request we also learned that only 8% of the Anderson County Sheriff vehicles have dash cameras in them, and they don’t have any body cameras.

Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office has been using body cameras since before the 2015 law was signed.

When asked about the transparency of the body camera video, Sheriff Lewis said the following, “So when the investigation is concluded and the solicitors office tells me, when Walt Wilkins tells me that  our investigation will no longer be impeded, influencing witnesses. We’ll cut that video loose no questions asked. We don’t have anything to hide.”

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