Jail consultant hired by solicitor calls Sutherland death ‘shocking’ and ‘disturbing’

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 7:05 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A day after Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced that the two Charleston County detention deputies involved in the death of Jamal Sutherland will not face state charges, the use of force consultant hired by Wilson said that what is depicted in the videos of Sutherland’s death is “shocking” and “disturbing.”

Gary Raney, who served as a sheriff in Idaho for a decade, said in a phone interview that in order to understand the actions of the two deputies, it is important to take a look at how they were trained.

Raney pointed to a decade-old clip of one of the two deputies, Lindsay Fickett, being pepper-sprayed at a training for Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center employees. To Raney, what the video showed is more like hazing than the sort of training that he feels is needed.

“There’s really no jail or no law enforcement organization this size that I know of that is not doing some sort of active training on de-escalation and force avoidance,” Rainey said. “The sheriff’s office here had a little bit, but it was so superficial [that] you couldn’t even really call it training.”

Raney said that an incident like what led up to Sutherland’s death could “absolutely” happen again at Charleston County’s jail.

“A jail is a difficult environment,” Raney said. “It’s filled with people who don’t want to be there. Mental illness is a very difficult thing. In any jail, this could happen. The likelihood of it happening is greater in the jail here in Charleston because fundamentally, the policy is not in place to fix it. The foundation of reform starts with good policy.”

Moving forward, Raney said that the jail needs to boost its de-escalation efforts, give detention deputies proper taser training, remove detention deputies’ shotguns, make sure that supervisors correct deputies right away whenever they notice something wrong, and allow detainees who are pepper-sprayed to have a 10-minute waiting period to surrender.

Raney said that if even Sheriff Kristin Graziano fully implements all of the changes that he is recommending, it would take two or three years before they become effective.

“We don’t intimidate people into compliance anymore in jails,” Raney said. “What we do is use good communication skills. We often have to use force, no question about that. It happens every single day across the United States dozens or hundreds of times. But the whole effort should be to avoid that use of force and that’s what they need to reform.”

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