CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The ethics of several South Carolina law enforcement officers from across the state are now in question after an audit from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy.
It found representatives from more than two dozen agencies cheated on training mandated by the state legislature, some finishing videos that should take hours in a matter of minutes.
“It’s an integrity issue. You’ve been tasked to do something, paid to do something and you obviously did not do that,” SCCJA director Jackie Swindler said. “So, to me, that’s a question of your honesty and dignity. Doesn’t look well on you and your character.”
Swindler says videos cannot be skipped through or sped up on a computer, where most officers complete their assigned tasks. But officers discovered that that was not the case on a phone or tablet.
“That caught us off guard and puzzled us because somebody would, first, do that and then find a way to do that,” Swindler said.
In early December, the SCCJA notified the departments with officers that completed their training incorrectly. Five are located in the Lowcountry, with 16 individual officers/deputies identified.
To be exact, SCCJA named seven deputies from the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, six officers from the North Charleston Police Department as well as individual officers from the Charleston, Mount Pleasant and Summerville Police Departments.
Anthony Cretella, head of the Professional Standards Division at the Charleston Police Department, denies its officer was involved in a cheating scheme. But rather, the watch time differed by about 30 seconds to a minute due to computer issues.
The training centered around domestic violence and legal updates, or changes in the law.
“If officers are taking shortcuts through training, I have to ask what shortcuts are they going to take on the scene?” South Carolina Coalition of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Executive Director Sara Barber said.
Barber says law enforcement in South Carolina responds to 27,000 calls annually regarding intimate partner violence every year.
“They’re very complex calls and demand a level of professional attitude and well-trained approaches that are critical to making sure that survivors and domestic victims are safe,” she said.
“If you respond appropriately and well, if the victim stays there they may call you again when they have need. If you don’t respond well they may never call again, and you don’t know the implications or the outcomes of that will be,” Barber added.
SCCJA allowed each department to handle further discipline in this case.
CCSO confirms that deputies received “letters of instruction”
The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office released this statement:
“Three deputies were confirmed initially, and a subsequent notification from the academy identified four additional deputies. There are seven total at this point.
[The deputies] were issued letters of instruction… We value this ongoing training and take this issue seriously. While it’s necessary for deputies to maintain law enforcement certification, the training also is critical in ensuring they have the knowledge needed to effectively carry out their duties…Deputies should not jeopardize their certification as law enforcement officers or deprive themselves of knowledge required to do their jobs effectively. All deputies regardless of whether they were identified in this audit have been instructed on the importance and necessity of this ongoing training.”
The North Charleston Police Department also released a statement:
“As soon as the North Charleston Police Department was made aware of the Criminal Justice Academies audit of their own ACADIS video system on November 12th, and their findings, Captain Andrew Glover of the Accountability Bureau (Internal Affairs, Training Section) directed the department’s Training Section to send an email to the entire department advising them of the proper and ethical way to watch the video. Also informing them that if they did watch the video in the incorrect manner to notify the Training Section so that they can be reassigned the video and watch it in the proper manner. On December 2nd the Criminal Justice Academy notified the department that through their audit, six officers in the department may have watched the video in the incorrect manner. Each of those officers were given verbal discipline, the videos were reassigned, and direction was given that they must be watched properly.”
Inspector Donald Calabrese with the Mount Pleasant Police Department confirmed that the officer identified is being disciplined, but provided no detail.
If there’s a next time, Swindler warns, his department is in charge of the consequences, and it won’t be as forgiving.
“Our training council is our governing body that hears all misconduct, and I have not found them to be lenient on any dishonesty. They do not believe an officer needs to be policing if they’ve lost their ability to be truthful and testify to tell the truth,” he said. “If we found someone guilty of certification of misconduct for this, I don’t believe they would get any other sanction other than: That’s it. You’re done, pull your certification. It’s that serious.”
The Summerville Police Department has not yet responded to a request for comment.
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