New SC House committee tasked with police and reform sentencing efforts meets for the first time

New SC House committee tasked with police and reform sentencing efforts meets for the first time

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Tuesday afternoon, members of the House Equitable Justice System and Law Enforcement Reform Committee got together for the first time.

They talked about issues like police accountability and standards, civil asset forfeiture reform, and sentencing reform.

The committee listened to three hours of testimony from law professors and solicitors. Associate Dean at the University of Georgia School of Law Andrea Dennis suggested lawmakers take a look at the practice of no-knock warrants and to abolish civil asset forfeiture in South Carolina.

Another panelist who spoke before the 18-member committee was 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone. He said there are a quite a few things he'd like to see lawmakers change but the biggest thing is making sure there is funding set aside to pay for enough body cameras to go around.

"Any police officer who is handed a gun in the state of South Carolina needs to be handed a camera," he went on to say, "And they need to be trained on the policies and procedures of how you turn it on and turn it off. "

5th Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson said he would like to see law enforcement work to rebuild trust with the public. "It's a shame when you look at a police force and it does not look like the community it polices. We have to attract all different kids of officers from different descents because that's what we have in the state," he said.

No law enforcement members spoke during Thursday's meeting but committee members said they will be speaking with them shortly. The committee plans to keep meeting through the next few weeks and have a report ready for other members of the General Assembly in September.

Speaker of the House Jay Lucas (R-Darlington) released this statement after the meeting:

“Today’s first meeting of the House Equitable Justice System and Law Enforcement Reform Committee was an essential first step in taking up the many complicated yet incredibly important issues our state and nation are currently grappling with. I am thankful to the four speakers who shared their expertise and testimony today, and look forward to having membership listen to much more testimony as they break out into subcommittee groups. I trust that through these subcommittees, solutions can be put forward and real change can be effected. As I have said before, the South Carolina House of Representatives is the people’s house, and will remain so, as we strive to do what is best for South Carolina and protect all of her citizens.”

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