- Associated Press - Sunday, November 22, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Legal settlements from shootings involving officers from South Carolina municipalities have totaled about $23 million since 2009, a newspaper reported.

An analysis by The Post and Courier (https://goo.gl/fXZ0jG ) shows that more than $17 million in the legal settlements have come this year.

Those include the $10 million settlement in the shooting death of a former mayor in Cottageville and the $6.5 million settlement in the shooting of an unarmed man by a North Charleston police officer.

Insurers for the municipalities paid the bulk of the settlements, which typically stem from wrongful death or excessive force lawsuits. But the settlements can lead to higher insurance premiums that are ultimately paid by taxpayers.

Officials with the Municipal Association of South Carolina, which insures 110 towns and cities, have sought to help municipalities with training and analyzed excessive force claims to figure out with departments need training the most, said Heather Ricard, the association’s director of risk management services.

“I would say that over the last few years - and this is a nationwide phenomenon - we’ve seen an uptick in law enforcement liability,” Ricard told the newspaper.

The State Law Enforcement Division’s chief, Mark Keel, said that he wants its Criminal Justice Academy to do more to analyze officer-involved shootings and apply the lessons from them.

Geoffrey Alpert, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina, has studied how inadequate discipline and training can lead officers to put themselves in threatening situations in which they feel the need to use deadly force.

“We have seen some videos from South Carolina that show horrible tactics,” Alpert said. He declined to cite specific cases.

Alpert said officers should look for ways to create more time to react, which could include taking cover to allow backup to come.


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