Bill to address law enforcement citations travels through Senate

VIDEO: Bill to address law enforcement citations travels through Senate

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC/AP) - A bill going through the state legislature right now could change the way the public perceives citations handed out by South Carolina law enforcement agencies.

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave unanimous approval Tuesday to a bill that would not require its officers and deputies to meet specific quotas for citations.

The bill will now head to the floor of the Senate.

All law enforcement agencies, departments, or divisions that enforce state and local laws would fall under this bill.

"That's probably a good thing because then you can actually just really get down to crime and the important parts and not money or meeting a certain quota," said Jessica Zieche, who has received a ticket in the past.

Rep. Justin Bamberg, sponsor of the bill, said quotas pressure officers to stop people for minor offenses, and his bill is a step in repairing relationships between law enforcement and the community. Bamberg is also an attorney for the family of Walter Scott, who was shot and killed by a North Charleston police officer in April 2015. Scott had been pulled over for a broken third brake light.

"I can't honestly say it would change my opinion of it," said Arlethia Robinson. "I still think it's something good. It's good to know that it's stemming from that."

Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester County Sheriff's Offices issued this statement Tuesday:

"We don't have a quota system or a policy that requires our deputies to make a certain amount of stops. Our deputies are allowed to use discretion when enforcing traffic laws."

The Charleston, North Charleston, Goose Creek and Summerville Police Departments also gave the same response.

"Our officers are sworn to uphold the law and that's what they do," Charleston Police spokesman Charles Francis said.

Some people find it hard to believe the agencies and departments don't have quotas.

"I believe they do it, because they have to meet a certain number per day, or maybe per week or something like that," said Phoebe Flud. "I suppose if I were an officer and I had to do that, I would do the same thing."

"There are definitely certain times of the month where there are more cops," Zieche added. "Everywhere you go, trying to get to work, there's a cop and other times, there's really very few."

"I think that a lot of people get pulled over for small things that they normally wouldn't get pulled over for," Robinson said.

Requests for citation numbers from 2015 are still being gathered by Lowcountry law enforcement agencies and departments.

However, three police departments gave their citation numbers for 2015.

Charleston Police had 28,249 traffic citations last year alone. Goose Creek Police had 6,911 total citations and Mt. Pleasant Police had 13,272 total citations. Total citations include both traffic and crime related situations.

The bill states officers can be evaluated on their "points of contact," defined as their interactions with residents and businesses and their involvement
in community initiatives.

Bamberg's bill was first introduced to the House on January 12. It had a 99-0 approval April 27.

The Senate Judiciary Committee received the bill April 28, and now it will head to the floor of the Senate with just two weeks left in the legislative

Copyright 2016 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.