Every 10 days on average, South Carolina law enforcement officers point their guns at someone and pull the triggers, 235 shootings since 2009. Eighty-nine people died, and 96 were wounded, says the Charleston Post and Courier. Each shooting triggered an investigation into whether officers were justified in using deadly force. With just a few notable exceptions, these officers were cleared of any wrongdoing. Many cases were open and shut, but a Post and Courier investigation uncovered case after case where agents with the State Law Enforcement Division failed to answer key questions about what happened, failed to document the troubled backgrounds of the officers who drew their guns, and failed to pinpoint missteps and tactical mistakes that could be used to prevent future bloodshed.
Never-before released dashboard videos reveal a disturbing pattern of officers shooting at and into vehicles. Officers told the state they fired because they were afraid of being injured or killed by these cars and trucks. The videos show that some officers were out of harm's way when they opened fire. Case files show little or no documentation that the officers' accounts were challenged over these inconsistencies. The thoroughness of these investigations can mean the difference between justice delivered and justice denied. A shoddy examination can hamper prosecutions and make it impossible to convict the criminally culpable; it can lead to rogue officers remaining on the streets with badges and guns; it can undermine public trust in law enforcement. The newspaper's findings come after the Walter Scott shooting in North Charleston and controversial cases in Ferguson, Mo., New York, Baltimore and Cleveland. Not since the Rodney King beating in 1991 have police departments been scrutinized so closely for their use of force.