COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Law enforcement officers could not be required to write a certain number of tickets under legislation that reached the Senate floor on Tuesday.
With just five legislative days left in the session, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill unanimously. The House passed it 99-0 last month.
Sponsoring Rep. Justin Bamberg said quotas pressure officers to stop people for minor offenses, and his bill would help repair their frayed relationships with the communities they serve. Both citizens and officers will be happier, he said.
“An officer operating under a quota system stops somebody he probably wouldn’t have, and one thing leads to another,” said Bamberg, a Democrat who also represents the family of Walter Scott, the black man shot and killed as he ran from a North Charleston police officer last year.
Quotas also add stress to an already stressful job, he said: “Good officers who are patrolling communities — doing things like checking on the elderly — may not be meeting a set number of ticket requirements and get literally drained. It silently kills their career.”
Officer Michael Slager was fired and charged with murder in the shooting of Scott, who he pulled over for a broken third brake light. The dead man’s family said Scott likely fled because he feared going to jail for unpaid child support.
Slager’s lawyer, Andy Savage, said his client would never have pulled Scott over if not for a quota system that he claimed required officers to stop at least three drivers a day.
Police in North Charleston have denied imposing any quotas, and other law enforcement leaders say they don’t exist.
The bill says officers can instead be evaluated on their “points of contact,” defined as their interactions with residents and businesses and their involvement in community initiatives. It provides whistleblower protections to officers alleging their bosses are requiring quotas.
What’s unclear in the bill is what happens if an agency breaks the law. It contains no punishment, but Bamberg said a mayor or city council could fire the police chief, and they could be sued.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said the measure is about sending law enforcement a message that “we don’t want pre-determined quotas.”
“I think they’ll comply,” he said.