Sheriff Carter Weaver has a plan to be more transparent and accountable to the citizens of Georgetown County.
He recently announced that he is establishing a Citizen’s Review Board, consisting of five Georgetown County citizens who will meet monthly to review cases handled by the sheriff’s department.
The board will be one of a handful that currently exist in South Carolina.
“Obviously current events in the country make any police administrator look inward and see what else we can be doing,” said Weaver. “It was just a common-sense decision to start a review process. Richland County has one, we will have one and I think another county is attempting to develop one.”
There has been an advisory board to the department in place for the last 20 years that meets quarterly, but it was never meant to be used for reviews, according to the sheriff.
“They are a good sounding board for day-to-day operations, but they do not have a review component,” he said. “That is something that we have not done, and it’s not something that many departments do in South Carolina. It needs to be done.”
The review board’s main task will be reviewing the use-of-force cases. Weaver said his department already has an extensive internal process but the board will be an extra layer.
“When the review board sees the case, there will already have been disciplinary action or decisions that have been made. It’s just another pair of eyes to look at and see how we operate in accordance to state law and policy when we are using use of force against citizens.”
A press release from the sheriff’s office said the board “will be charged with pursuing the following principles and objectives:”
• Seeking social and racial justice.
• Engaging in community outreach and amplifying the voices of the socially, politically and economically disenfranchised.
• Listening to and building cooperation between all stakeholders to find and develop common ground and public purpose.
• Championing just, equitable and legitimate policing procedures.
• Processing complaints, reviewing police practices and interval investigations, issuing findings, writing public reports and making recommendations.
Feedback has been mostly positive according to the sheriff.
“It has been very positive from the citizens,” he said. “From some law administrators that don’t quite seem to understand it, it hasn’t been as positive. There has been a little bit of misconception and concern that we are going to be releasing this human resource information and citizens with no law enforcement training are going to be making decisions on whether the officer did right or wrong. That’s not going to happen.”
President Marvin Neal of Georgetown NAACP Branch No. 5520 said that he was pleased to hear about the formation of the board.
“I think that it is a great thing,” Neal said. “It gives us a lot to work with towards reform. With some of the challenges that we have now across the nation, I think it will actually diffuse a lot of bad tension because transparency is very important and it will create accountability."
Black River United Way, a local nonprofit in Georgetown, is helping formulate the application and selection process. Board members will be selected for two-year terms, which can be renewed for an additional two years.
At least one board member will either be a retired law enforcement officer or have at least five years of law enforcement experience.
For those interested in serving on the board, Weaver said more details will be released soon on how to apply.
All meetings will be open to the public and held on the last Wednesday of every month at the sheriff’s office at 430 N. Fraser St. in Georgetown.
“It’s the right thing to do,” said Weaver. “It’s timely and it’s something we are going to do.”