80 S.C. troopers on the job despite repeat offenses

Eighty state troopers who have been disciplined at least twice since 2003 have kept their jobs despite questionable behavior that includes giving false information about an accident and speaking to jurors during a trial.

The (Columbia) State newspaper found that suspensions were rare, coming in only 16 of the 207 cases. Troopers in more than half of the cases received counseling for violations, including at-fault car wrecks with patrol cars.

Mark Keel, the incoming director of the S.C. Department of Public Safety, told The State he was troubled by the findings.

“Why did someone have incident after incident, and they were not suspended? I don't know,” he said. “When I see a police officer with six or seven disciplinary actions, it requires you to look deeper at those folks than someone who has just one.”

Keel said he likely can't give stiffer penalties for past infractions, but he said the attorney and former chief of staff at the State Law Enforcement Division said at his swearing-in ceremony last week that his immediate priority would be to review the department's disciplinary policy.

Former SLED director James Schweitzer resigned after videos surfaced showing a trooper using a racial slur while chasing a black suspect and other questionable conduct.

Schweitzer said he had worked for a “fair and effective” disciplinary process but declined to discuss specific cases.

“All disciplinary actions taken or not taken received serious deliberation and were carried out in the hopes that those actions would deter future transgressions,” he said in a prepared statement.

Schweitzer used a progressive disciplinary system that ties the severity of punishment to the number of previous violations in a particular category.

A trooper with at least three sanctions in certain categories, such as failing to follow departmental rules or improper conduct, could be suspended or fired.