Lawmakers hope to pass bill requiring law enforcement to wear body cameras

Published: Dec. 3, 2014 at 4:21 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2015 at 4:42 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For State Senator Gerald Malloy, the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words still holds true.

Video, on the other hand, is word even more.

In the case of the LeVar Jones shooting which took place at a Columbia gas station, video evidence helped put a state trooper behind bars. Malloy doesn't believe that would have happened without that footage.

"Eyewitness testimony, obviously, is what we like to have most of the time," Sen. Malloy said, "but it is not the absolute best evidence because witnesses, sometimes after the fact, start filling in the gaps as to what they thought they saw."

Malloy and other lawmakers want all South Carolina officers to wear body cameras and he's filing a bill that, if passed, would make it a mandate.

All of this, happening in the aftermath of Ferguson, where there was no video and conflicting eyewitness accounts.

"I don't think anyone can oppose this," Malloy said. "I think it's a win-win situation."

Malloy's goal is to put South Carolina ahead of the curb. He says the cameras will either point out injustice or quickly validate police action.

"Law enforcement, really, they support this," Malloy said. "In large part, because they want make certain that they can instill confidence in the community too."

The cameras, according to Malloy, range from $200 to $800. He says the cost might spark debate along with other concerns. However, Malloy says the state might be able to get some federal grant money. Ultimately, he's hoping for bipartisan body camera support in the new session.

"This just makes sense," Malloy said, "so what we're talking about is doing common sense legislation."

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers' Association says some departments are already using them or trying them out. Among them are the Hartsville Police Department , USC Police, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, and Columbia Police Departments.

The Kershaw County Sheriff's Office is in the process of ordering cameras for all deputies next year for $50,000. Sheriff Jim Matthews says body cameras should be an "industry standard" and says legislation is a "wise move."

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