COVID-19 pandemic leads to lower funding for police training in South Carolina

COVID-19 pandemic leads to lower funding for police training in South Carolina
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the academy responsible for training every officer in South Carolina says they could be losing out on some funding. (Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Police training is a topic at the forefront around the country right now, in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the academy responsible for training every officer in South Carolina says they could be losing out on some funding.

Some law enforcement officials in our state believe that could affect the quality of training recruits receive.

The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy is responsible for training every Class 1 police officer in South Carolina.

“Every officer starts there and they do a lot of advanced training there,” Kershaw County Sheriff Lee Boan explained.

Forty-two-percent of the academy’s budget comes from a portion of fines and fees that is appropriated to them. That includes money from things like traffic tickets, arrests, and certain court filings.

Before changes that were made last year, an even larger percentage of their funding came from those fines and fees.

“They changed it from 67% to 42%, so then they made up that difference with appropriated money,” Jackie Swindler, the director of the academy said.

Swindler says because of the COVID-19 pandemic and more people staying at home, officers have made less arrests and have not given as many tickets, which has taken a toll on the academy’s budget.

“Just this year has been about $550,000 -- and a good portion of that has been in the last few months with COVID,” explained Swindler.

Police training in our country is under a microscope right now.

With a large loss of funding, Swindler says that could lead to cuts in the types of extra training an officer could receive.

“We certainly have enough to do basic training, that’s what we are tasked to do,” Swindler said. “What happens when you start having not as much as you would like to have, then you may not do advanced training.”

Swindler listed some examples of the advanced training they offer, which include topics like supervision, communication and even some extra courses on implicit bias.

He believes that advanced training helps to create a more well-rounded officer.

“The more we are able to do the better,” he added.

In response, instructors at the academy want their students to get as much extra training as possible, so the academy is working to get officers that advanced information in different ways.

“What we may do is be creative,” Swindler said. “We may film things here and send it out via the internet.”

And with police reform comes new training, something law enforcement in South Carolina believes likely won’t come cheap.

“Training and education, it’s always a very important topic,” Sheriff Boan said. “It was before any of this that’s going on right now but now its even more important.The bottom line is you get what you pay for. You’ve got to put money into something if you want something out of it.”

The academy also said it’s not just the coronavirus pandemic that has caused them to see a drop in funding, it’s also things like hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters that can change how much money is brought in.

Copyright 2020 WIS. All rights reserved.