HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — As the weather warms up, South Carolina law enforcement leaders expect an increase in crime and, possibly, officer-involved shootings.
Jackie Swindler with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy said there has been an uptick in violence across the country and with more violent acts against police, that increases the chances of an officer-involved shooting.
“You have to decide if a person is a danger to you,” Swindler said. “You have to make a quick decision.”
In 2021, the State Law Enforcement Division reported 40 officer-involved shootings in South Carolina. So far this year, there have been eight.
“You generally see more activity, more violent activity during the summer months,” Swindler said.
When dealing with officer-involved shootings, Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said heworks with SLED to determine whether an officer’s use of force is justified.
“The whole thing is to make sure that you’ve got an unbiased group in there making a call in the investigation,” Richardson said. “All I’m looking for at that point, is whether or not the police officer should be prosecuted.”
One recent case in the Grand Strand area involved a pursuit that ended in former Hemingway officer Cassandra Dollard shooting and killing Robert Langley. She has been charged with voluntary manslaughter.
Use of deadly force is only permitted when an officer reasonably believes his life or the life of others is in jeopardy, authorities said.
“There are times that that officer may very well have put himself in a bad spot, and that’s what gets a lot more squirrely from our situation,” Richardson said.
In recent years, police training has had more focus on de-escalation in an effort to make potentially violent situations safer for everyone involved.
“We do a lot of techniques on how to separate people, how to talk to people, how your appearance and your facial expressions, and your terms can help calm people down,” Swindler said. “I have seen a great improvement because of officers having that type of training.”
Body cameras have also been helpful when investigating officer-involved shootings. They let the public see the officer’s viewpoint and can help a solicitor or a jury decide whether an officer’s use of force is reasonable, Swindler said.
It also protects the public from acting out if they know that they’re on camera,” he said.
“They may say, ‘Hey, I believe this officer has a camera, I’m not going to act out or say things ugly, or cursing or aggressive because I don’t want to look that way'” Swindler said. “They know there’s documentation also and that what they do will be captured on camera.”
Swindler said officers also receive training on how to handle situations involving mental illness. He said a lot of people police come in contact with are in some type of mental illness episode and knowing what to say might help to de-escalate the situation.