Thousands sign petition calling for Citizen Oversight Board for Greenville County Sheriff’s Office

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- More than 5,000 people have signed a petition for more oversight of the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.

Citizen Review Boards provide a place where members of the public can make complaints about the conduct of law enforcement officers. The City of Greenville has one for the police department. Now thousands are calling for more accountability at the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.

“I started this petition because enough is enough,” said Farris Steele Johnson, a Democrat who is running for Greenville County Council.

She’s not an expert in policing, but said research into ways to curb police brutality led to her to call for a Citizen Oversight Board.

“This isn’t a new idea,” Johnson said. “This isn’t something I’ve come up for or with. It’s something that’s being practiced all over the country in cities just like ours.”

The petition calls for a diverse review board where citizens can take any grievances about law enforcement. Johnson believes a board should be able to make budget and training recommendations and have authority to discipline or fire deputies.

“It’s not a radical idea, it’s just a simple checks and balance, and it really priorities public safety for the folks that live in these streets,” Johnson said.

Community advocate Paul Guy, who lost his bid for sheriff to Hobart Lewis in a special election earlier this year, said there would also need to be another office with authority over a review board.

“With the inspector’s office, he has the ultimate authority because he works directly for county council,” Guy said. “Under him you establish a Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board.”

Guy, a Democrat, is running against interim Sheriff Hobart Lewis, a Republican, in the general election this Fall.

Community activist Bruce Wilson told 7News he is asking the chair of Greenville County Council for $150,000 a year to fund a citizens review board for the sheriff’s office.

A spokeserpson with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office said the Lewis dosen’t want to comment until he has a chance to speak with peition organizers about their concerns.

Johnson said she’s in the process of building a task force to explore the idea of a Citizen Oversight Board further.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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