Law Enforcement Certification in South Carolina
Law enforcement officers, like many professional careers, are subject to organizational oversight. In South Carolina, law enforcement officers are regulated by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy and/or Law Enforcement Training Council.
Without a doubt, law enforcement officers have received increased public scrutiny in recent years. What the public – and even law enforcement officers themselves – do not often realize is that State law governs the determination of an officer’s fitness for duty as well as to adjudicate allegations that they engaged in misconduct.
Title 23, Chapter 23 of the South Carolina Code of Laws governs law enforcement officer eligibility and the adjudication of misconduct allegations. S.C. Code § 23-23-150(A)(3) defines “misconduct.” The statute further provides that if the head of a law enforcement agency or department within the State believes an officer has engaged in misconduct, as defined, it must be reported to the Academy. Upon receipt of the misconduct allegation, the Academy will preclude the individual from being employed as a law enforcement officer until the matter has been adjudicated. The officer has three (3) years from receipt of the allegation of misconduct to request a contested case hearing.
The contested case hearing is the sole avenue for a law enforcement officer in South Carolina to seek to have his/her certification reinstated. The hearing proceeds like a trial in that both parties are entitled to be represented by counsel, present opening statements, direct and cross examine witnesses, introduce evidence, and make a closing argument. Current regulations require that the reporting agency establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the officer engaged in the alleged misconduct. After receiving a recommendation from the hearing officer, the matter goes before the Council at a monthly meeting at which point a final agency decision is issued. In brief, the Council may permanently revoke certification, reinstate certification, or take some middle-ground action (i.e. probation, suspension, etc.).
CBPH is experienced in handling law enforcement certification matters, teacher certifications before the South Carolina Department of Education, and other licensure certification matters most often brought before a licensing board within South Carolina Labor Licensing and Regulation.
While I hope you are never in the situation, know that CBPH is here if your professional licensure or certification is ever in jeopardy.