GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WBTW) — The Hemingway police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter for the killing of Robert Langley on Sunday had been fired twice before, according to public records.
Cassandra Dollard, 52, was fired from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety in 2014 for alleged violations of two policies related to discipline, according to the documents. She was also fired in April 2002 from the Johnsonville Police Department “for poor performance.”
A lawsuit Dollard filed in 2017 against SCDPS, claiming racial and gender-based discrimination, shows she was fired in 2014 for shooting at dogs while off duty, using her SCDPS weapon — and not reporting it for hours, according to a firing memo obtained by News13.
Dollard also got in trouble in 2014 after getting “frustrated and visibly angry” while responding to a disabled vehicle, according to a federal lawsuit where the officer claimed racial discrimination. She “struck the motorist’s vehicle with her hand,” according to the suit, and body cam video showed her saying “what in the hell is wrong with this crazy woman” while talking about the stranded driver.
Dollard also faced allegations of using her blue lights to “simply clear traffic for convenience’s sake.”
By late August 2014, according to the suit, it had been determined that Dollard was consistently failing to follow the procedure in a number of ways, including: “failing to call in traffic stops to communications; failing to document out-of-service drivers and vehicles; and failing to wear her issued body armor.”
She was also accused of “failing to make the proper charge against a motorist, working outside of her assigned zone without prior approval, using her vehicle’s blue lights simply to clear traffic for convenience’s sake rather than as part of a law enforcement activity, and failing to show up for court on two separate occasions in May 2014.”
While fired from the department, Dollard’s actions did not rise to the level of one of 11 forms of police misconduct in South Carolina.
If that’s not misconduct, what is?
“Unsafe practices with a firearm, substance abuse, abuse–psychological or physical, abuse of a member of the public, and then there’s a host of lying misconducts,” Director of the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy Jackie Swindler said.
Once an officer is hit with misconduct charges in South Carolina, they can’t work as a police officer until after a hearing reinstating certification. If an officer, like Dollard, is fired without allegations of misconduct, they are free to find work elsewhere without limitations.
“An officer could be fired from an agency and not have an allegation of misconduct,” Swindler said. “They would still be eligible to maintain their certification.”
Swindler said police departments nationwide are stretched thin because of the shortage of officers. He said that means departments might be more inclined to look past previous transgressions.
“And so the applicant pool is small and so, unfortunately, there probably are instances where agencies do take a chance on hiring someone that maybe, ordinarily, they would not have in the past,” Swindler said.
Dollard is the first police officer in South Carolina to be charged in an officer-involved shooting since 2015 when former North Charleston police officer, Michael Slager, shot and killed Walter Scott, who was running away from a traffic stop.
“It is rare that an officer would be charged but certainly it’s not uncommon nowadays,” Swindler said. “Maybe not as much here in South Carolina but across the country you see it happen more often now where officers are charged criminally for their actions.”
Dollard’s career in law enforcement began in 1992, according to employment and training documents obtained by News13. She started with the Hemingway Police Department in September. The documents would not show recent changes in employment status. News13 reached out to the Hemingway Police Department to confirm Dollard’s status with the department and has not heard back.
Dollard has also previously worked for the Williamsburg County Detention Center, Lake City Police Department, and the St. Stephen Police Department, documents show.