Caught on tape: Lawmaker calls actions 'despicable'
Thu, 20 Mar 2008 02:20:08 GMT —
More trouble for the South Carolina Highway Patrol after more videotapes were released which show officers behaving badly.
Three weeks ago, Governor Mark Sanford accepted the resignations of both the public safety director James Schweitzer and the Highway Patrol commander Russell Roark. This, after he viewed tapes, including one from 2004, showing a trooper using a racial slur and threatening to kill a man during a foot chase.
Civic leaders and some lawmakers now want an investigation into the patrol. Those same leaders brought videos to WACH FOX News showing a Highway Patrol car chasing a suspect through a crowded Columbia apartment complex off South Beltline Boulevard. The car darts through buildings, over grass and curbs, and even through a playground while residents, some of them children, dive out of harm's way.
"He needs to be arrested," says Rep. Christopher Hart of Richland County. "He needs to be charged, he needs to be brought before the law and prosecuted for that."
State representative Hart calls the tape "despicable," adding he believes most law enforcement officers follow the letter of the law while the actions of a few "bad apples" give the entire patrol a bad name.
"When I saw those tapes, I said are we in Iraq or are we in South Carolina?" says Rep. Hart.
Another tape shows a patrolman ramming a man running down a side street, and flipping him into a ditch. The trooper later brags he was trying to hit the man.
When asked on the tape you can hear the trooper say, "Yeah, I was trying to hit him. I hit the **** out of him."
"You have to understand the arrogance of these troopers who know they're being recorded," says Rep. Hart. "To still do this type of activity and say look we don't care, we'll do whatever we want to do."
South Carolina NAACP President Lonnie Randolph adds, "A lot of these things occur because it is allowed."
Dr. Randolph says the kind of the activity on the tapes represents a "culture" that has been allowed to develop. But, he points out the chance for change is here. In the next two weeks, Governor Mark Sanford is expected to name possible successors to public safety director James Schweitzer, who resigned three weeks ago. Lawmakers and civic leaders plan to put candidates under the microscope.
"It's our job to do what we do to ensure that all human beings are treated with the decency and respect they deserve," says Dr. Randolph.
Representative Hart adds, "The first thing is we need to get rid of the good ole' boy system. We really need someone completely from the outside who has no ties to any political person or any political director so they can come in and really do a thorough job and make sure we get rid of this."
In the two cases described, the troopers involved either received two- or three-day suspensions, or were sent to stress management or diversity classes.
A source tells WACH FOX News there are more tapes out there that have not been released, possibly 40 of them. The issue extends beyond racial discrimination, those tapes show troopers treating people of all races with a "wild west mentality."
That same source says there are plans in place to urge the Richland County Sheriff's Department and solicitor's office to re-open an investigation into the apartment complex chase and pursue charges against the trooper involved.
We'll keep you posted on any updates.