Former Sheriff responds to criticism over jail’s procedures


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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Former Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon is responding to criticism about the policies and practices at the Al Cannon Detention Center.

Cannon, who has been the sheriff for more than 30 years, sat down with Live 5 News. [more]

The interview happened after Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced charges would not be filed against two Charleston County detention deputies involved in the January death of Jamal Sutherland. During Monday’s news conference, both Wilson and Use of Force expert Gary Raney were critical of the jail’s policies.

Those policies have been in place under Cannon’s leadership.

Raney said there was “a failure of policy, training, and supervision” but that the deputies had done this many times.

Cannon extended his condolences to Sutherland’s family but would not comment on specifics in the case.

Although he said he does not have all the details, he does not believe the jail’s policies and procedures are ineffective.

“I can’t imagine how I’d feel if something happened to one of my children but having that, that’s not necessarily the same as saying that the policies and the training and the practice that we used in the detention center is responsible for that death,” Cannon said. “Without knowing all of the details, I can’t say one way or the other, there is no approach you take, if we didn’t have the tactical team, and a bunch of officers just went in and the cell and jumped him and tried to secure him, an outcome similar to that certainly would have been possible.”

He says the detention center has used a tactical operations team made up of detention officers specifically trained to deal with situations before they escalate when dealing with an inmate that is not complying.

“If we had a problem with an inmate in a cell, a supervisor would approach the cell and advise that person that they would need to come out and come out without any violence. They would be told that if they didn’t come out peacefully we would send in a tactical team to restrain them and take them out of the cell,” Cannon said.

Cannon said over the years, the tactics changed.

Originally, the team would try to pin down the inmates’ legs and arms. Now they use tasers and other resources to avoid physically laying their hands on people.

In the news conference, Raney recommended the sheriff’s office change the policies and procedures to prevent a similar incident from happening again.

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