Claims Involving Police Brutality Across South Carolina Cost the State $17 Million
As more reports and videos of police brutality go viral online and spark debate across the nation, South Carolina has taken a tally of how much the problem has cost the Southern state – a whopping $17 million.
The brutal killing of a victim running away from an officer in North Charleston this year turned the country’s eyes to SC’s police brutality problem, but the single incident is far from the only one.
Last year, the State Insurance Reserve Fund, which covers civil lawsuit and injury claims involving state agencies – including the police and sheriffs’ departments across South Carolina – paid $17 million to victims of police brutality, like Stanley Brown, who suffered three cracked vertebrae after a police chase led an officer to knee the victim in the back. The officer stated in his police report that the knee kick was intended for Brown’s upper thigh, but when Brown moved, the blow landed near his rib cage. In spite of complaining that he couldn’t feel his legs, an ER doctor cleared Brown to be taken to the detention center, where a nurse found him the next morning, lying on the floor in a pool of his own excrement, unable to stand up or move his legs.
The state ended up paying Brown $700,000 from the fund to resolve his personal injury complaint, along with another $200,000 to pay for attorneys’ fees.
His case is one of hundreds of police brutality charges that have gone to civil court in South Carolina alone, costing the state $17.6 million in just 2014.
Another victim, Bernard Bailey of Eutawville, was shot and killed by a police officer during a “scuffle” regarding Bailey’s daughter’s traffic ticket. His family was awarded $400,000 as a wrongful death lawsuit settlement in April 2014. Two other victims have received settlements in police brutality personal injury cases this year, and there is the potential for the State Insurance Reserve Fund to spend more money on police brutality this year than 2014.
The North Charleston case has yet to go to court.
“If we’re spending that much on paying out claims, we need to spend a lot more money on training officers so that we don’t have these claims filed in the first place,” said State Rep. Todd Rutherford, a Columbia Democrat who has handled some complaints against law enforcement tactics.
“Even though the number is $17 million, it probably should have been more,” he added. “There are some awful things going on that the government is able to squash because they make it so difficult to go after them.”
State Rep. Joe Neal, a Democratic representative from Richland County, said that the dollar amount for police brutality “suggests to me there is a significant problem in South Carolina and in law enforcement in regards to these issues.
“Which suggests to me that we need, as a state, more information about what’s happening in contacts between law enforcement and the public,” he added.
Among the hundreds of cases that the State Insurance Reserve Fund paid, 72 were related to use of force, excessive force or police brutality; 85 allege false arrest; and 71 allege civil rights violations. Other charges claim negligent supervision, illegal search and seizure, due process violations and crimes, especially involving inmates in prison.