Wounding of S.C. Black motorist by volunteer cops brings sharp questions about authorization

Authorities in Florence S.C., are dealing with questions about why a white volunteer officer opened fire on a Black motorist, although the policeman with him did not

A police shooting in Florence, S.C., last weekend has prompted questions and concerns after a white constable, who serves as a volunteer, shot a Black motorist.

According to the Post And Courier, around 11 p.m. on Saturday, the volunteer officer was on a ride-along with a Florence police officer when they pulled over a Black motorist in a residential area. 

Questions remain

Authorities are unclear on the reasons the motorist was stopped, or what transpired between the two officers and the man, the incident reportedly transpired when the constable fired his weapon at the motorist, wounding him, according to authorities.

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The injured man was reportedly taken to an area hospital, but his condition remains unknown. Them Berry, the State Law Enforcement Division spokesman, reported that he was told the man is expected to survive.

Important questions surrounding the incident have yet to be answered. The victim nor the police officer or the constable have been identified by the police department. Florence police reportedly stress that it was the constable who shot the gun, not the officer.

Constables are not like reserve officers who also volunteer, and do not go through law enforcement training at the South Carolina Criminal Justice academy, although they receive certificates and training by technical colleges. But they can carry guns and make arrests.

Who has the authority?

“I’m still trying to get an understanding of their authority, their training … and who has oversight over what they’re doing,” said State Representative Terry Alexander. “The city officer wasn’t in harm’s way, so why did the constable shoot?”

Alexander represents the district that the incident took place and commented on his worries over recent years about the police treatment of Black people as well as what the standards and rules are for constables.

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The incident is currently under investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division to determine if the shooting was justified. The Florence Police Department is also reportedly performing an internal review.

The officer involved in the shooting has not been removed or suspended from work. The department emphasizes that he is not the focus of the investigation.

“[Since] he was not involved in this incident, other than the traffic stop, he has been released from the investigation by SLED,” said Chief Allen Heidler. “As a matter of fact, so has the entire department.”

The constable, who has worked alongside the department for nearly four years, has reportedly been stripped from his duties as the investigation continues.

According to the Post And Courier, there have already been nearly a dozen police shootings this year, although this is the first involving a constable.

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