Sunday, October 17, 2021

Why Are Deputies at School Board Meetings

Why does Richland 2 contract with the Richland County Sheriff's Department to have so many deputies present at every school board meeting?

Can anyone remember a time when they were needed in a hurry? Even one? I can't, and I've been attending meetings since February 2018.

On October 12th two deputies were at the entrance and prevented one parent from entering the building because he was not wearing a mask.

Let me say, right up front, that I am on a friendly basis with the deputies who get stuck with Richland 2 school board meeting duty. They are good guys. And they handled the situation well on October 12 by not arresting the man who wanted to enter. Apparently, the District wanted him to be issued a Trespassing citation.

No crime was being committed. They knew that, and that's why no arrest was made.

The deputies are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Somebody told them to be at that door. Who? Did a Richland 2 administrator give them the order? Or did their superior officers at RCSD tell them to do whatever they were told to do (by school officials)?

The deputies are likely present under a Special Duty Agreement between Richland 2 and the sheriff's department. One important provision in the standard Special Duty Agreement is this: 

"Deputies will not enforce any rules and regulations set up by the employer [sic] that is [sic] not otherwise violations of the law." (RCSD could use a little help with content and grammar.)

The mask mandate is a Richland 2 rule or regulation created by the superintendent. It is not a law. There is no mask mandate state law.

There is, however, an ordinance (law) created by the Richland County Council. But the Fire Marshals are to enforce it, and the fine for violating it is $25.00.

After the meeting deputies seemed to be in a hurry to clear the audience out of the board room. Anyone else notice that?

I am writing to Sheriff Lott to ask him to get a legal opinion as to whether RCSD deputies can be used at the front door to keep people out or if they can be used inside the board room to usher the audience out or even prevent a member of the audience from approaching a board member after the meeting.

In the past I've been told that I cannot approach a board member after the meeting ends, because the meeting is over. That's wrong. It's a public meeting room. If public officials are there, most of them invite the public to say hello and ask questions or make comments.

I may file a FOIA request for the agreement between Richland 2 and RCSD to learn the cost of the three deputies. (The cost to a nearby HOA for Special Duty deputies is $45.00/hour each.) If there are three deputies present from 5:30PM-9:00PM, the cost is $472 (3.5 hours x 3 x $45). Multiply that times the number of meetings, and pretty soon it becomes real money. $472 x 2 (meetings/month) x 12 mos. x 3.5 years = $39,000+   Money right down the drain. 

The armed law-enforcement officers of RCSD are not private security guards for Richland 2. Their only function at meetings should be Law Enforcement; i.e., to keep the peace, prevent crimes, take action if crimes are occurring or are about to occur. They should not be there to block doorways or screen people entering or rush the public out of a meeting room.

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