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LCSD data shows Black suspects disproportionately involved in use of force, arrested

Updated: Aug. 25, 2020 at 6:03 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, WIS filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with three Midlands law enforcement agencies to investigate their history of use of force.

Floyd died after Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, despite Floyd’s pleas that he could not breathe.

It sparked a local and national conversation on law enforcement policies.

When filing the FOIA requests with local agencies, WIS asked for the demographics of the suspects/officers involved and the type of force used.

Data from the Columbia Police Department and Richland County Sheriff’s Department show use of force is rare, but Black suspects are disproportionately involved when compared to their representation in the population.

Data from the Lexington County Sheriff's Department shows similar trends.

(Story continues below embedded data.)

The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department provided data compiled between Jan. 1, 2019 and June 1, 2020.

Out of all the contacts with the public, the department is reporting 1.36 percent resulted in arrest, and 0.03 percent resulted in a use of force incident.

When force was used, the data shows 31 percent of suspects involved were Black.

It also shows more than 28 percent of all arrests were of Black suspects.

According to the U.S. Census, the African-American community comprises 15.7 percent of Lexington County.

The numbers show a disparity between the percentage of Black people who live in Lexington...
The numbers show a disparity between the percentage of Black people who live in Lexington County, and those affected by use of force.(WIS)

Co-founder and Executive Director of Empower SC, Rye Martinez, said the use of force data was “discouraging.”

“It feels like you’re being back-stabbed,” she said. “Because you see the promise, you hear the promise, you hear that things are going to change. (But) when you look at it, you see that there is a lot of work to be done.”

Martinez helped lead a march in Columbia in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. She said community concerns are being heard, but she wants to see that translate to change.

“You have folks like myself here, and other community leaders and organizers, really trying to build that relationship, build the trust and make that change,” she said.

WIS requested insight from Lexington County Sheriff's Department spokesman Capt. Adam Myrick on use of force in the county. 

Specifically, WIS was looking to discuss the department's policies, suspect demographics, and what factors are playing into the department's data.

Myrick declined an interview.

He did provide the department's use of force policy.

That policy states in part: “The LCSD recognizes the value of human life. Law enforcement officers are tasked with the awesome responsibility to protect life and property and to apprehend criminal offenders. The responsibility for a deputy to protect human life must include his own. The LCSD uses only the force reasonable and necessary to accomplish lawful objectives.”

Here’s the full policy (story continues below):

Myrick also provided the demographics of the department’s 377 sworn personnel.

The majority of deputies are White (78.5 percent), which lines up with the Census data of the White population in the county (74.2 percent).

Meanwhile 18.8 percent of the department’s sworn personnel is Black, just over the county population estimate (15.7 percent).

Lexington County Council Chairman Scott Whetstone declined an interview request.

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