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Misconduct

In South Carolina law enforcement officers hold a law enforcement certification and a commission. The commission, typically issued by the officer’s Sheriff or Chief, grants the law enforcement officer the authority to perform arrests and enforce the laws of the State of South Carolina within a certain jurisdiction. The law enforcement certification, issued by the Law Enforcement Training Council through the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, grants the law enforcement officer authority to enforce the laws and ordinances of this State or any political subdivisions once the officer is deemed qualified by the Law Enforcement Training Council.

The Training Act and corresponding regulations allow the Law Enforcement Training Council to withdraw and/or deny certification to an officer if the officer has committed misconduct as defined in SC. Code of Laws Section 23-23-150.

What is certification misconduct?

Answer:  S.C. Code of Laws Section 23-23-150 (A)(3) misconduct means:

“(a)    a conviction, plea of guilty, plea of no contest or admission of guilt to a felony, a crime punishable by a sentence of more than one year, regardless of the sentence actually imposed, or a crime of moral turpitude, any of which were committed in this State or any other jurisdiction;

(b)    the unlawful use of a controlled substance;

(c)    the repeated use of excessive force in dealing with the public or prisoners;

(d)    dangerous or unsafe practices involving firearms, weapons, or vehicles which indicate either a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property;

(e)    the physical or psychological abuse of members of the public or prisoners;

(f)    the misrepresentation of employment-related information;

(g)    willfully making false, misleading, incomplete, deceitful, or incorrect statements to a law enforcement officer, a law enforcement agency, or a representative of the agency, except when required by departmental policy or by the laws of this State;

(h)    willfully making false, misleading, incomplete, deceitful, or incorrect statements to any court of competent jurisdiction, or their staff members, whether under oath or not;

(i)    willfully providing false, misleading, incomplete, deceitful, or incorrect information on a document, record, report, or form, except when required by departmental policy or by the laws of this State;

(j)    the falsification of any application for certification and training based upon which the officer was admitted for training; or

(k)    providing false information to the Criminal Justice Academy.”

Does an act of certification misconduct have to be reported to CJA?

Answer:           Yes.

S.C. Code of Laws Section 23-23-150 (B):

“The sheriff or the chief executive officer of a law enforcement agency or department within the State must report to the Academy the occurrence of any act or multiple acts of misconduct by a law enforcement officer which could result in the withdrawal of the certification of the law enforcement officer who is currently or was last employed by his agency. The report shall be made within fifteen days of the final agency or department action resulting from the internal investigation conducted by the agency or department, and shall be on a form prescribed by the Council. A willful failure to report information related to acts of misconduct shall subject the violator to a civil penalty as provided by the Council.”

Can someone with an allegation of certification misconduct be employed as a law enforcement officer?

Answer:           No.

S.C. Code of Laws Section 23-23-150 (G):

“No person who has a pending allegation of misconduct filed against him pursuant to Subsection (B) by a law enforcement agency with the Criminal Justice Academy may be employed as a law enforcement officer or as a telecommunications operator; have the authority of a law enforcement officer; perform any duties of a law enforcement officer, including those duties involving the control and direction of members of the public, detainees, or prisoners; or exercise the power of arrest until:

(1)    the Council has issued a final agency decision that the person may be granted certification, be granted certification with probation, be granted certification with any additional requirements deemed just and proper by the Council, or be granted certification with a public reprimand; or

(2)    an appellate court issues a ruling that the Law Enforcement Training Council shall issue the person his law enforcement certification or telecommunications certification and the Law Enforcement Training Council or Criminal Justice Academy has not appealed the ruling.”

How can someone with an allegation of certification misconduct request a contested case hearing?

Answer:           S.C. Code of Laws Section 23-23-150 (D):

“A person against whom an allegation of misconduct has been received by the Academy may request a contested case hearing. The request must be made within three years after receipt of the allegation of misconduct and the service of the allegation on the officer, whichever is later. A person who fails to request a contested case hearing within the time allowed shall be deemed to have waived his right to a contested case hearing. The Law Enforcement Training Council shall proceed to enter a final agency decision to deny the person his law enforcement certification or telecommunications certification for a specified time period, up to a permanent denial. Hearings must be scheduled and conducted expeditiously and efficiently, consistent with the needs and rights of the parties to obtain a fair hearing and a complete record. The Academy shall schedule a contested hearing within sixty days of receiving a request for a hearing, however, a continuance may be granted for cause.”

What if the allegation(s) of misconduct is not proven?

Answer:           The allegation is expunged.

S.C. Code of Laws Section 23-23-150 (M):

“If an officer with an allegation of misconduct is found not guilty or not at-fault, the records of the misconduct allegation must be expunged by the Council within thirty days."

What if the officer does not commit misconduct, but has engaged in excessive force?

Answer:           Any finding of excessive force must be reported to CJA.

S.C. Code of Laws Section 23-23-150 (L):

“In addition to the allegations of misconduct specified in this section, any finding by a law enforcement agency as to the use of excessive force by a law enforcement officer must be reported to the Academy by the appropriate law enforcement agency or department within thirty days of the finding, the information of which must be maintained by the Academy for investigative and personnel hiring purposes. This information is not a public document and not subject to disclosure other than to a law enforcement or prosecution agency, or attorneys representing a law enforcement or prosecution agency, except by court order. This exemption does not preclude the disclosure of any information contained in these records from another source or by another provision of law.”

Does an officer need to keep CJA informed of his/her current address?

Answer:           Yes.

S.C. Code of Laws Section 23-23-150 (H):

“A law enforcement candidate, law enforcement officer, or telecommunications operator must keep the Academy informed of his current address and must notify the Academy of any change of address within thirty days.”

Who can submit a PCS of Separation to CJA?

Answer:           Certified law enforcement officers.

S.C. Code of Laws Section 23-23-150 (I):

“All information submitted by a law enforcement agency or department to the Criminal Justice Academy related to the separation of a law enforcement officer must be submitted by a certified law enforcement officer from the agency or department.”

Individuals with questions or concerns about an allegation of misconduct can reach the Misconduct Unit by calling Chief General Counsel at 803-896-7722.