Charleston Co. pursuit policy emphasizes public safety but leaves specifics up to deputies’ discretion

Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 8:04 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Last month, a pursuit by a Charleston County Sheriff’s Office deputy ended in a crash in an apartment complex parking lot.

The patrol car, driven by Deputy James Carter according to a report, can be seen driving speeds over 40 miles per hour in the complex on dashcam video, taking several tight turns before the suspect’s vehicle crashes into a bystander’s car.

The report states it began when the deputy observed the driver “having trouble maintaining its intended lane” on Ladson road.

The chase lasts a little more than two minutes after blue lights were imitated and the two cars are within the Cypress River Apartment complex for less than one.

Authorities arrested the driver, 32-year-old Adrian Dawson, after using a K-9 unit to catch him as he ran from the scene of the crash.

Deputies charged him with failure to stop for blue lights, unlawful carrying of a weapon, unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and a drug possession charge.

Spokesperson Andrew Knapp confirms a “standard review” found there were no policy violations during the incident.

Live 5 News obtained the 13-page section of CCSO’s policy and procedure manual on vehicle pursuits, last revised in November 2021.

It emphasizes public safety, but there aren’t definitive conditions laid out when exactly a deputy should stop the chase.

The section on terminating chases (Section F) reads: “The primary pursuing unit will continually re-evaluate and assess the pursuit situation including all of the initiating factors and terminate the pursuit whenever they reasonably believe the risks associated with continuing the pursuit are greater than the public safety benefit or making an immediate apprehension.”

There are about eight initiating factors including location, time and day of week, weather conditions, population density, condition of deputy and seriousness of the offense.

The document also describes that deputy sheriffs are not allowed to “drive with reckless disregard for the safety of others” or “force the pursued vehicle into parked cars... unless the facts and circumstances would warrant the use of deadly force.”

In 2021, CCSO reports 192 pursuits, with a little less than third called off by either the deputy or supervisor, at 60.

This year so far, preliminary data shows there have been 30 pursuits, 10 of which were terminated.

According to the policy, no deputy can be punished for calling off a pursuit.

But if a supervisor does observe “egregious or unsafe” acts in the automatic follow up review then immediate disciplinary action can be taken.

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