GREENVILLE, S.C. — New guidelines for the use of body cameras require all South Carolina law officers - whether in uniform or not - to wear and use the cameras when interacting with the public on calls.
The guidelines require the cameras to be activated when officers arrive on a call or when handling an investigation involving the public.
That includes traffic stops, accidents, arrests, calls involving drunk or emotionally disturbed persons, use of force, suspicious persons and “an adversarial contact or a potentially adversarial contact.”
The guidelines say that “officers should use discretion where there is a victim of rape or sexual assault” and also suggest officers try to avoid recording people who are nude.
The state Law Enforcement Training Council approved the guidelines Friday.
State lawmakers this year passed legislation requiring the cameras be worn. The 11-member Training Council, comprised of state agency directors and law enforcement officials, was directed to come up with guidelines for using the cameras.
Lawmakers passed the legislation in the wake of the shooting of Walter Scott, a black motorist who was shot and killed as he fled a traffic stop. A white former North Charleston police officer is charged with murder in the shooting captured on cellphone video by a bystander.
The officer was not wearing a body camera and the shooting reignited national debate over how blacks are treated by officers.
Under the new guidelines, law enforcement officers must document in writing or on the recording itself if, for any reason, they discontinue using the cameras.
The three pages of guidelines exempt recording conversations between law officers themselves without the permission of a police agency head or conversations with undercover informants.
State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel, the chairman of the Training Council, said he hopes using the cameras will mean fewer complaints against police and improve behavior by citizens when they encounter officers.
“Hopefully, we’ll see positive results all around,” Keel said.
Local law enforcement agencies will form their own policies based on the guidelines and must submit those policies to the council by March 7. After that, local agencies may request funds to buy cameras or seek reimbursement for those already purchased.
State lawmakers also will have a chance to review the guidelines and while they can reject specific guidelines they cannot add new ones.