HARTSVILLE, S.C. (WBTW) — Area police officers have been disciplined after a South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy audit found that officers were skipping training videos.
Officers with the Bennettsville Police Department, Darlington County Sheriff’s Office, Florence County Sheriff’s Office, Hartsville Police Department, Horry County Police Department, Conway Police Department, and Aynor Police Department were identified as having skipped through videos.
Hartsville police said that one of its new officers was caught in the audit.
“The officer said he heard about how to fast forward through the videos on a Facebook group,” Lt. Mark Blair, a spokesperson for the Hartsville Police Department, said in a statement. “He claimed he skipped through the video with his phone to see if it worked, but had all intentions of going back and watching the training in its entirety.”
Blair said the officer faced disciplinary actions and wrote a letter of apology to the academy’s director, but Blair said he can’t go into exact details about what actions were taken.
“Not only does cheating on required training make the officer look bad, but it robs them of knowledge they need in dealing with domestic violence laws,” he said in the written statement. “In effect, after watching the training, an officer is saying ‘I watched this and I understand the laws.’ By cheating on virtual training, they may fail to act and endanger someone, or they may act in violation of a law that has changed. Domestic Violence calls are one of the most complex and volatile calls an officer handles on a day-to-day basis. We take them very seriously because if we do our job wrong someone could lose their lives on scene or after we leave.”
He continued to say that the department was “angered and disappointed” with the action, and that the virtual training has worked well during the pandemic.
“We are grateful to the SCCJA for notifying us of this audit and for giving us the opportunity to correct this type of behavior,” he said.
Darlington County Sheriff James Hudson said the audit implicated one officer in his department.
“This issue was addressed with this officer internally, and SCCJA has attached a statement of attestation to the ACADIS videos,” Hudson said. “Any discrepancy in watch times in the future could be considered misconduct.”
Hudson said he has addressed this issue with all his personnel and made it clear that any issue that brings into question a deputy’s integrity or honesty will not be tolerated.
Thirty-one people were caught and faced penalties including suspension and termination. The academy will be running weekly reports and calling departments if it catches someone cheating. Moving forward, there will also be an alert at the beginning of videos stating that the user can revoke the certification if they’re caught cheating.
The computer system can tell how long a candidate has spent watching a video.
Officers were skipping videos on topics such as domestic violence and updates to laws, according to the audit.
News13 reached out to local departments for their responses to the audit. This article will be updated as News13 receives responses.
Horry County police said it has “been made aware of the audit and are addressing the matter appropriately.”
Conway Police Department Chief Dale Long said that the department is “aware of the findings of the audit.”
“I have high expectations for ethics as public confidence remains essential in our mission to serve Conway,” he said in a statement to News13. “Our department is working with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy to implement additional quality control measures.”
Bennettsville police told News13 that the department is taking the issue “very seriously” and has already changed and submitted updated policies to the academy.
“I have taken every measure to ensure that we hold our police officers accountable; moreover, set an example that this behavior with NOT be tolerated,” Chief Kevin J. Miller said in a statement to News13. “Any officer to be found in violation of department policy or conduct, which is in conflict with the SCCJA will receive serious disciplinary action.”
Major Mike Nunn with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office said his department was informed Wednesday that a former FCSO deputy, while employed with the agency, was one of the officers who failed to comply with mandatory video legal updates. Nunn said the person left the agency “some time ago” and is no longer an employee subject to FCSO discipline.
“We take personal integrity, both on duty and off very seriously,” Florence County Sheriff TJ Joye said. “Ongoing mandatory legal updates and training from the Academy are critical to officer safety as well as the safety of the public. We will have a zero-tolerance for this conduct.”