Tarnished badges: Officers charged with protecting us ending up charged with a crime

Tarnished badges: Officers charged with protecting us ending up charged with a crime

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Over the last two years, 96 officers have been charged with a crime, 21 of them in the Lowcountry.

“Just some of them are so bad. And you go, How did that person go awry?” South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy Director Jackie Swindler said.

The Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Department is the Lowcountry agency that had the most officers charged with several of them tied to a fraud case.

After that, the Al Cannon Detention Center had the most officers charged, where two officers were charged with having a sexual relationship with inmates and another officer charged with domestic violence. Records show that officer assaulted a woman while children were in the home.

“Well, it saddens you that someone tarnished our badge and our profession,” Swindler said. “There are some that are just so egregious just and it sickens you to say, I can't believe this person, misused their authority to that level that they, you know, gave a black eye to our profession.”

Of the 90 some officers that were charged over the last two years, data from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy show a repeated pattern of bad behavior.

Providing contraband and domestic violence were the top charges that cost officers their badge.

“If you’ve been convicted of domestic violence, and you’ve been a threat to some partner, you could be judged by, you know, the court to say you cannot possess a firearm," he said. "So certainly you couldn’t be a police officer if you couldn’t possess a firearm or ammunition. So there are certain charges like that.”

After contraband and domestic violence, DUI, federal indictments, and drugs were the top charges officers are accused of doing.

In one case, a Newberry County Detention Center officer offered to pay an undercover law enforcement officer for sex.

“They did not think about this profession, their fellow officers, their agency, the profession as a whole that they did something you know, that was so bad,” Swindler said. “It does bother us and that’s why we take it so seriously.”

As seriously as it’s taken, state discipline reports show some of these officers are still on the job.

In the Lowcountry, an officer resigned from one department amid a domestic violence charge and now works for the Moncks Corner Police Department.

“They eventually have the ability to get that back,” Swindler said. “We literally police our profession much stricter in that if we work in case, bring charges against someone find them guilty of misconduct and the training counselor here takes their ability to be a police officer, then they are done for life, they can no longer be a police officer in this state.”

Swindler said despite the officers who have done wrong, he said the vast majority of officers are outstanding.

“At one day, we can have some 14,000 certified officers in the state of South Carolina,” Swindler said. “Last year, we had 203 reported incidences of potential misconduct, not all were found guilty of misconduct, but 203 allegations of misconduct Out of over 14,000. So that is very small, very small percentage.”

That number may be small, but Swindler said it is significant.

“One is too many though, officers take an oath to do the right thing, uphold the Constitution, then they ought to do that every day,” Swindler said.

Swindler also said agencies have to do their due diligence when hiring officers. “Over the last couple years, particularly we've implemented several statutes and, or regulations that cause agencies to do a better job of vetting who enters law enforcement,” Swindler said.

The majority of officers that were charged with a crime were sworn officers, four were pre-academy, three were students, and two were new hires.

Swindler said the SCCJA gets a monthly report from the State Law Enforcement Division and that’s where they see what officers have been charged. He said they oftentimes know before that report what officers are charged.

“If they are determining that someone is guilty of misconduct, they have 15 days to give that to us from their final disposition,” Swinder said. “They have to get that to us. So it's pretty timely. Now, if it's not a misconduct for their agency, but that person has been charged, they will notify us.”

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