Gov. Nikki Haley accused Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott on Wednesday of being the only S.C. sheriff not to sign on to her anti-domestic violence pledge — a claim Lott disputes.
Lott said he told the governor’s office on Tuesday he agreed to sign onto a plan to improve officer response to domestic-violence calls and planned to submit the pledge on Thursday. Lott appeared in an ad for Haley's 2014 Democratic gubernatorial foe Vincent Sheheen, where the sheriff was critical of the governor's administration handling the deaths of children whose families had contact with the S.C. Department of Social Services.
“It’s a shame politics is being interjected into public safety,” Lott said.
Haley, a Lexington Republican, held a news conference Wednesday to announce that 45 of the state’s 46 sheriffs agreed to require deputies file incident reports and conduct checks for warrants for every domestic violence call. Her office released the signed pledges from the 45 sheriffs.
Asked about Lott’s absence from the list of sheriffs backing the pledge, Haley said, “There is one sheriff in the state of South Carolina that does not seem to think any rules apply to him. It’s unfortunate Sheriff Lott was the only one that did not sign the pledge.”
The governor then criticized the Richland County Sheriff’s Department for investigating its own officer-involved shootings, instead of having the State Law Enforcement Division investigate as other agencies do. Lott has said he turned to in-house probes starting in 2014 because he feels his department has the investigative expertise, a competent crime lab and the public trust to conduct proper investigations of its own deputies.
Lott said he could not attend the news conference Wednesday because he was committed to attending other events, including addressing pastors in Blythewood and attending a funeral for the wife of one of his captains.
“I helped her domestic violence task force by having meetings with them and helping them develop the plan,” Lott said. “Everything that plan recommends, we’ve been doing.”
Haley said, if Lott does sign the pledge, “It’s only going to be because of an election year.”
Lott is facing a challenger in the Democratic primary.
Staff writers Andrew Shain and Cassie Cope contributed.