Former Camden Police Department leaders gave reprimand for alleged assault

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 7:19 PM EDT
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CAMDEN, S.C. (WIS) - Former leadership at the Camden Police Department gave a written reprimand for an incident South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) agents think is 2nd-degree assault and battery.

SLED agents arrested former Camden Police Department Sgt. James Steele Wednesday for the assault charge and misconduct in office.

The charges stem from a November 24, 2019 incident where body camera video from another officer on the scene shows he punched a suspect in the face while holding his handcuffs.

A warning, the video is violent:

Camden Police Department records show Steele and another officer went to the Mona Lisa Motel in Camden and attempted to arrest the suspect for trespassing. The suspect passively resisted, and the punch was thrown.

On Nov. 27, 2019 then-Police Chief Joe Floyd and then-Captain Tom Borowski issued a written reprimand for violating department policy and procedures through “inappropriate actions.”

The written reprimand also laid out training on the use of force and pepper spray Steele would need to undergo prior to returning to duty.

Floyd, Borowski and Steele all signed the reprimand. WIS has redacted the name of the victim.

Department records show the department’s chaplain reviewed the incident and described it as reasonable force, but in his notes described the punch as “questionable.”

A member of the citizen review panel indicated a follow-up would be needed and called for retraining and counseling.

Attempts to contact Floyd and Borowski were unsuccessful.

SLED reported to WIS that Interim Chief Darren Norris requested the investigation into the incident on Feb. 9, 2023.

Norris took the lead of the department less than two weeks prior on Jan. 28. Norris was hired after Floyd retired and Borowski suddenly resigned after being named the incoming interim chief.

Steele’s defense attorney Zack Atkinson did not return a request for comment but reported to a Kershaw County judge in Steele’s bond hearing that Steele had cooperated with SLED.

He also reported an anonymous complaint led to SLED’s investigation.

An anonymous letter highly critical of Floyd and several named subordinates was sent to the city prior to Floyd’s retirement.

The letter raised concerns about the incident Steele was arrested for.

At the time the letter became public knowledge, both Floyd and Camden City Manager Jonathan Rorie denied the letter had any connection to Floyd’s retirement.

On Thursday, WIS requested comment from Rorie on what role, if any, the Steele incident played in Floyd’s retirement.

WIS also asked Rorie what the city knew about the incident prior to the arrest.

He responded: “I do not have any records responsive to this request”.

S.C. Criminal Justice Academy records show Steele retired on May 1, while the criminal investigation was ongoing.

Camden Police Department records also show Steele was a supervisor for former Camden Police Officer and Kershaw County Sheriff’s Deputy Johnathan Goldsmith.

Goldsmith is facing assault charges from his time with KCSO.

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