North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey says police body cameras are on the way for North Charleston police officers.
Summey also said thanks to state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, the department received a grant to purchase 101 body cameras and they are already on order. Summey also announced he made an executive decision to purchase an additional 150 body cameras so that every officer that is on the street in uniform will have one.
"I want you to know it takes a while. Once the cameras come in, we have to train them on operation of the camera, but we also have to establish a policy," Summey said. "We have already been drafting a policy through the police department for our legal department to look at and make sure it passes muster."
The announcement came at a press conference held by Summey and Police Chief Eddie Driggers held a press conference after visiting the family of 50-year-old Walter Scott, who Summey called "wonderful" and "down to earth."
"We let them know how we know about their loss and how bad it was," Summey said. "We don't condone wrong, no matter who it is. We're there to support them as we can for the future."Summey said he was taken aback by the warm and kind reception he, his wife and Driggers received from the family.
"They are an outstanding family in our community," he said. "Those of you, however you choose to offer up prayers, please pray for this family and the time they're going through. We will be there to support them for the funeral with a police escort to make sure that we get them moved properly and that we give them the utmost respect and the respect the gentleman that is deceased deserves."
Summey said North Charleston Patrolman First Class Michael Slager, 33, who was charged with murder Tuesday in connection with the Saturday morning shooting death of Scott, has been terminated from the department. Summey said the city will continue to cover the cost of health insurance for Slager's wife, who is eight months pregnant.
"We think that is the humane thing for us to do, and we are going to that," Summey said.
Driggers said his heart goes out to Scott's family.
"I got to meet a daddy who is in mourning. I got to meet a mama who is in morning. And we talked father to father," he said, asking the community to give the family respect.
He said the city and the police department is doing its best to serve and protect the community.
"We're going to continue to strive to do what's right," Driggers said. "I have been praying for peace, peace for the family and peace for this community. And I will continue to stand on that as I strive to protect and serve the people I took an oath to do so."
When the topic turned to the shooting itself, the press conference was interrupted several times by protesters, some of whom had conducted their own press conference earlier that morning outside City Hall. Protesters chanted slogans like, "No justice, no peace."
When asked whether officers performed CPR on Scott after the shooting, Driggers talked about what he saw on the videotape.
"I'm going to be totally honest with you. The honesty comes from the heart. I have watched the video and I was sickened by what I saw. I have not watched it since," he said. But he described what he said he recalled towards the end of the video, stating he saw what he thought was a police officer beginning to remove Scott's shirt and performing some type of lifesaving procedure. He said he was told officers tried to save his life.
In a portion of the video, Slager appears to pick up an object, walk toward Scott, then appears to drop the object near Scott. When asked about what that object might have been, Driggers referred those questions to the State Law Enforcement Division, who is conducting the investigation.
"There are questions that I have in my mind that I can't answer right now," Driggers said. "Those questions are going to have to be answered by Scarlett Wilson, the solicitor, and by SLED."
One reporter asked, "Do you have police procedures in place, what are the procedures and were they followed?"
Driggers paused and said, "Obviously not."
Summey stepped in, pointing out that since SLED is currently the investigating agency, North Charleston authorities turned over evidence to them, which means that North Charleston authorities do not have answers. Summey said SLED has dash cam video from the officer's car, and said he believes more of the amateur video than has been seen actually exists.
"We only were able to look at what was given to us," he said.
As protesters became more boisterous and demanded to hear more from Driggers, Summey briefly threatened to shut down the press conference until everyone quieted down. Summey said Driggers is prevented from discussing specifics of the investigation because SLED investigators have not given him permission to do so.
Summey addressed concerns about diversity in the police department.
"We recruit African American members to the police department," he said. "Anyone that can become certified as a police officer, we're more than willing to hire. The problem is we have a very limited number even to the point that we've started going out and recruiting from other departments where we can get certified minority police officers to work for us."