Observers of a Greenville officer beating Sandon Sierad in the head last weekend caught the incident on video at an area Wal-Mart. The event followed the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed Ferguson, Mo. man who was shot by law enforcement earlier this month. An officer said Brown tried to take his weapon by force. Both incidents have drawn the public to pay close attention to police misconduct.
But Saturday’s beating wasn’t the first time Greenville police were thought to have been involved in excessive force. A data map by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, shows 11 instances of South Carolina officers accused of using excessive force in 2010. Four of those instances reported were in the Greenville area. All 11 cases reported the use of excessive force—a level of force considered beyond what is necessary to arrest a suspect and ensure public safety.
Nationwide, 247 deaths were associated with the 4,861 reports of police misconduct, which involved 6,613 officers. According to the report, the incidents are estimated to have cost $346,512,800 in court costs, attorney fees, civil judgements and some settlements. Data for the report was collected from nationwide media.
According to Tim Lynch, the institute’s director for the Project on Criminal Justice, the city or county usually pays these costs. And that cost gets passed to taxpayers.
“The officer seems to never pay,” he wrote in an email Tuesday. “Police unions sometimes will take care of the legal fees or provide attorney.”
But he pointed out those unions collect dues from police, who collect a government salary. “Taxpayers again.”
A spokesman from the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office was not available to comment before this report was filed Tuesday. But the officer involved in the incident was reportedly placed on leave pending an investigation. Video footage showed Sierad acting erratically toward store employees and law enforcement before officers used a taser to subdue him.