The Greenville News started requesting dashcam videos of traffic stops early in our investigation into civil forfeiture. For research purposes, it was a logical next step: many forfeiture cases stem from traffic stops, and dash camera video is a public record in South Carolina.
Court filings provided little information about the stops beyond the date they occurred and, occasionally, the intersection where the subject was pulled over. Dashcam video, on the other hand, would show us the entire encounter because the cameras automatically start recording once the blue lights on a patrol vehicle are activated.
Over a span of two months, The News submitted Freedom of Information requests to 15 law enforcement agencies, including sheriff’s offices in Greenville, Spartanburg, Greenwood, Sumter, Florence, Berkeley and Charleston counties as well as the South Carolina Highway Patrol. We requested videos from 49 traffic stops — the earliest was from Sept. 18, 2015, and the most recent was from Dec. 24, 2017.
In the end, The News was able to obtain 12 videos. The cost was about $133.