Charleston Solicitor Scarlett Wilson says that background checks conducted through the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) system are “notoriously inaccurate”. Wilson stated that false reporting in these SLED background checks have interfered with the police department’s ability to follow a recently passed state law.
A case from 2014 where 16-year-old Timothy McClendon was arrested for attempted murder and attempted robbery highlights how results, whether false positive or false negative, can have a dangerous outcome.
Under a South Carolina law passed in early 2014, a bail hearing has up to 30 days to be conducted after an arrest. This new protocol gives law enforcement time to gather more information about a suspect’s case and possible criminal history before bail is set. Yet the background check conducted on McClendon came back clear and he was given his bail hearing before the 30 days were up.
McClendon’s SLED background check came back with an erroneously clear history. The background screening missed a previous drug trafficking charge from January 2014 against McClendon, which is considered a violent crime in South Carolina.
According to an interview from ABC News 4 in Charleston, Wilson issued the following statement on the subject of the SLED background screening error:
"We have to look at what happened with the rap sheet and why that wasn't correct. Because the officer there only had the information that he has,” Wilson said. “Rap sheets are notoriously inaccurate. So it's hard to know how many people's pending charges aren't showing up”.
A SLED representative stated that SLED background checks only pull information from police agencies and detention centers and WILL NOT show criminal records or arrests that occurred out of state!
SLED checks also rely on fingerprint searches to pull criminal records and because McClendon’s fingerprints from his January arrest had not yet been filed in the system as of August 2014, his background check came back clear.