SCCJA: Coleman not qualified to run for sheriff in Fairfield

WINNSBORO – Wallace Coleman, a candidate for Fairfield County Sheriff, is not qualified to run for the office, according to a spokesperson for the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Nevertheless, Coleman will still be on the ballot in the June 11 primary.

According to South Carolina law, Sec. 23-11-110 (A)(5)(a), a candidate for sheriff must be a Class 1 law enforcement officer.  Coleman is not.

Coleman, 56, filed an affidavit with the Democratic Party stating that he has 14 years of experience as a Class 1 law enforcement officer, certified by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Training Council.

Maj. Florence McCants with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy told The Voice that Coleman is not now and has never been a certified Class 1 law enforcement officer.

She said that Class 1 law enforcement candidates must go through 12 weeks of basic law enforcement training taught by the Criminal Justice Academy.

“He has never attended the Academy or received any Class 1 certification training,” McCants said.

Coleman was a state constable, not a sheriff’s deputy, according to Renée Wunderlich, Director of Public Information for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). That agency regulates constables. They are sworn peace officers who assist law enforcement agencies. Constables receive only 94.5 hours of basic training which can be completed at a S.C. technical college. 

To file to run for sheriff in South Carolina, state law Sec. 23-11-110 (B)(1)(A) says that a state political party must approve sworn affidavits filed by candidates for the office of Sheriff.

According to a story reported by Cynthia Beasley for WIS-TV, Jay Parmley, the executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said, “We did approve Mr. Coleman for the ballot based on his affidavit. If the affidavit is not correct the party can’t do anything about it now.”

Coleman’s name will still be on the ballot, and any votes for Coleman will still count during this election, according to Jackie Beaver, Director of Fairfield County Voter Registration and Elections.

While The Voice was unable to reach Coleman prior to going to press on May 29, Coleman had this to say in a story published earlier by WIS-TV, “You carried a weapon, handcuffs, so you’re certified to carry the baton and the pepper spray. You’re certified to carry all that,” Coleman said. “You do the same thing the regular deputies and officers do. There’s no difference in it.”

“Mr. Coleman became a Constable in 1996, but has not renewed his license since 2007 and has not documented any training since 2013, thus he is out of compliance and is not considered a Constable in South Carolina,” Wunderlich said.

In addition to Coleman and Gibson, Sheriff Will Montgomery is also on the Democratic ballot for the June 11 primary. Montgomery is running for re-election to a fourth term as Fairfield County Sheriff. Gibson previously worked for the S.C. Department of Public Safety and the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office.

This story was updated June 4 to clarify source attributions.

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