SC’s law enforcement training academy takes financial hit from COVID pandemic

SC’s law enforcement training academy takes financial hit from COVID pandemic
The academy's director reported more people staying at home, officers making less arrests and few tickets being issued have led to a decline in funding that amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Source: WIS)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy has taken a financial hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

About 42 percent of the academy’s funding comes from traffic ticket fines and fees, which has become unreliable source of cash flow because of COVID-19.

The academy’s director reported more people staying at home, officers making less arrests and fewer tickets being issued have led to a decline in funding that amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We are down considerably because we aren’t receiving those portions of fines and fees so that would not make us fully funded at this time,” SCCJA Director Jackie Swindler said.

However, this isn’t a new struggle for the academy.

In the past, the academy has asked the general assembly for more support to transition the academy to a more stable source of funding.

“The general assembly was much more generous last year with giving us more general funds, state money...with that we were doing well,” Swindler said. “But we need to have a more stable funding source, so there’s a guarantee. So, you know every year what you have and what you’re able to do with that.”

Swindler said the general assembly has made improvements, by giving the academy more money from the general fund and reducing its dependence on fines and fees from 67 percent to 42 percent.

Hurricanes, flooding, and other factors have also impacted the academy’s funds in similar fashion.

“Officers aren’t out writing tickets, and they’re not making arrests, so those portions of fines and fees go greatly down.,” Swindler said. “During this COVID time we went in the red again with fines and fees.”

The unstable funding can impact new programs and the maintenance of the academy’s facilities.

Officials had planned to begin offering “mobile training teams” for advanced training for current law enforcement officers. However, that program has been stalled because of the pandemic.

“The purpose was to hire officer to go out and train in different regions of the state for advanced training, for things they took while here in basic training but may be are not getting refreshers on it in their agency,” Swindler said. “We hired about a third officers that we need for that, then of course, COVID came and so we’ve put that on hold because we aren’t hiring those officers nor sending them out right now for advanced training.”

The intent was to expand training for law enforcement officers, something protesters have been calling for across the country.

“Those officers would go out and teach things they need, but also teach things that are essential,” Swindler said. “That could be arrest procedures, handcuffing, defensive tactics, vehicle positioning, those types of things for safety…some supervisory skills, de-escalation training, Narcan, first aid.”

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