Excessive force in question: Florence County Sheriff says, ‘our officers did nothing wrong’
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO)– It is a subject that can make many people uncomfortable, but it as a topic that has come up all across the country. What is excessive force and where do we draw the line? A recent incident out of Florence is raising that very question.
This incident caught on camera happened in Florence County last month. The woman taking the video says she saw Tyler Fleming, the man who is pinned on the floor, ask officers for a ride to Marion County after getting off the bus. Next thing she knew, he was yelling that he couldn’t breathe.
“The officers are shown in the video holding the suspects head and his face off the pavement to prevent injury… there was no chokehold. At no time was the subject struck, hit, punched, kicked, or tazed,” Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone said.
Rachel Bouie took the viral video and said Fleming had been handcuffed before being brought to the ground. Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone said through an internal investigation they found that “the officers did nothing wrong” and were justified because Fleming physically resisted the officers. This video has been shared nearly a thousand times and has been creating lots of debate on what is considered excessive force by police, a topic a panel discussed at USC.
“We can’t have public conversations if we’re busy yelling at each other. So events like this are a way, I hope, to get past some of the yelling and have meaning conversations about pretty divisive issues,” Seth Stoughton, associate professor school of law, said.
Richland County Chief Deputy Chris Cowan said this panel was incredibly helpful to hear from his community.
“But the difference in Richland County than a lot of agencies around the county is the sheriff has told us that we have to be willing to listen to what people say, and we have to realize that we’re not going to be right all the time. And that are things we need to do to get better,” Cowan said.
Panelists said a big challenge is getting training that helps officers separate their fears from actual threats. Some panelists said there’s just not enough data collected yet to be able to compare policing from state to state, or even year to year, but having panels like this can help open that door to having conversations to lead to better policing.
“Police agencies exercise a form of coercive authority that other government agencies don’t or can’t. And that makes it really important for us to get policing right,” Stoughton said.
Today the NAACP requested there be further review of the incident in Florence County.