COLUMBIA — People who record police during arrests and traffic stops, like the barber whose cellphone video led to a North Charleston police officer being charged with murder, would be protected under a bill filed by a state senator on Tuesday.
Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, said several other states have introduced similar legislation that allows people to record the actions of police without facing arrest for obstruction of justice. Malloy said he filed the bill in response to the death of Walter Scott, who was killed by Michael Slager, a North Charleston police officer who has since been fired and arrested.
Slager was filmed firing eight shots at Scott’s back by Feidin Santana, a passerby who saw Slager and Scott struggling. Santana was not arrested or threatened by police but has said that he feared retribution from the police and considered deleting the video and leaving town.
“It’s unfortunate that we feel like we have to end up having legislation to end up protecting you because whenever they say, ‘Cut your camera off or we’re going to arrest you,’ then that’s improper,” Malloy said of law enforcement.
South Carolina is one of 38 states that allows for one-party consent, which means the permission of only one person is needed to record. Further, courts have found there is no reasonable expectation of privacy when an officer is being recorded on the streets.
Malloy also filed a bill that would require all officer-involved death investigations be conducted by at least two investigators that are not employed by the same agency as the officer being investigated. He also stressed the need to advance bills in both the House and the Senate that would require officers wear body cameras.
Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, who sponsored the House body-camera bill, said the Rev. Jesse Jackson is expected to attend a forum he’ll host at North Charleston City Hall at 1 p.m. Friday.