GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office employees discussed some difficult topics Tuesday.
The department went through training on enforcing laws without bias Tuesday morning. That training went over how issues like racial stereotyping and intolerance can impact policing.
“We’re all human," said Georgetown County Sheriff Carter Weaver. "We do have prejudices. We do stereotype. We’re having those conversations today.”
Weaver wanted his staff to have those timely conversations with a professional.
So, he set up a “Without Bias” training session with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy.
“This is deputies, judicial, telecommunications and corrections, along with our enforcement division, so it’s every employee," said Weaver. "Along with secretary employee division as well.”
The officers were asked to name stereotypes for various ethnicities and professions to have them all acknowledge bias exists, but the important thing is setting that aside when they’re on duty.
The officers broke into small groups to debate whether or not South Carolina needs a hate crime law. It’s one of three states in the country without one.
The speaker from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy discussed how officers may respond differently when they have to keep going to calls at the same residence.
The training also looked at how overtime and intolerance can build toward the people law enforcement are used to handling, but that every situation needs to be handled independently of the last.
The emphasis of the session was about how every interaction for law enforcement is with one individual at a time, not a class of people.
For Georgetown NAACP President Marvin Neal, this is a step in the right direction, but only a small step.
“Getting a sheet of paper, or a training once a year, checking a box," said Neal. "That’s only putting a patch on the situation. Some agencies don’t even do that much.”
Neal was pleased with the department’s recent decision to start a citizen’s review board to look at “use of force” cases within the department.
The next thing he’d like to see addressed in Georgetown policing is mental health.
“Another skill set might need to be involved to de-escalate the situations other than a handcuff," said Neal. "Sometimes a handcuff may be necessary, but other than a handcuff and understanding this is a mental health case, or this is a situation that is beyond our reach. We need to bring another body in.”
The Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office opened the training up to the city police department and other nearby law enforcement agencies as well.