CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A South Carolina law allows uncertified police officers to work for departments across the state for up to a year while they are waiting to get into the Criminal Justice Academy. A law, that some believe is a threat to both officers and the public.
Officials say it’s time to consider changing the law in South Carolina. The law has an exception which allows police officers to patrol neighborhoods, make arrests and carry guns all before completing formal training at the state level.
The minimum requirement for certified police officers in South Carolina is 4 weeks of field training, 8 weeks of classroom training and two written tests. Jackie Swindler, former police chief turned Director of the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy says officers need to complete formal training before hitting the streets.
“I will say that I was a chief of police for an agency for 21 years before I came to work for the state and I did not work anyone during that tenure as chief that was not certified,” says Swindler. “I believe that you really need to prepare people.”
Swindler says the academy implemented the current training format in 2019 cutting wait times to get into the academy from months to under 14 days. He says some departments offer their own training in addition to the state required training.
“Agencies could do that much training or even more without putting the people out to work,” says Swindler. “But of course there are still some agencies that work them for some months before they even attempt to start them into the training.”
Swindler says there’s no way of knowing how many uncertified officers are working across the state but says some could be completing training through their department.
“I really don’t have a way of knowing that, they register with us so we know they are out there,” says Swindler.
Former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon says the law is driven by several things including short staffed police departments.
“It’s been an issue in South Carolina really for decades, as far as I can remember and it’s driven by lack of resources,” says Condon.
Condon believes changing the law requiring officers to be certified before hitting the streets would take little work.
“I think this sort of proposal where you simply require certification before working as an officer, I would think would get broad bipartisan support,” says Condon.
The law has been on the books for at least 45 years according to Swindler. Both say now would be the opportune time to change the law.