As if the South didn’t have enough problems, the national/international media has taken to bashing Pickens County with unfettered enthusiasm and unrestrained stereotypes, hearkening back to the days of yore and The Dukes of Hazard. The worst part of it is there’s no call for it.
Recently the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office made international headlines with the arrest of Kayla Finley on a warrant that was almost nine years old for a failure to return a video to a locally owned video rental store, which after all these years is no longer in business. On any given day the department makes any number of arrests, many of them similar to this case, so the incident should have gone away quietly.
Instead, one phone call to a local television media outlet and the world is beating down our door in a salacious attempt to use sensational journalism to grab viewers/readers on the cheap. Just like every other product in the world, though, cheap reporting doesn’t last either, at least once the facts surrounding the story are told instead of glossed over.
The fact in this case is there is no statute of limitations on theft in the state of South Carolina, whether it be $1, a bounced check, or failure to return rental property. The Sheriff’s Department’s hands were tied when Finley’s warrant appeared on their computer system while Finley was in the office to deal with a separate issue and the arrest had to be made without prejudice.
Had Finley walked into any location in the state and the situation occurred in exactly the same way, Finley would have been arrested, just as she was here. But, because the arrest was made in Pickens County, our law enforcement and magistrates have been castigated for what has been painted as a malicious act when the fact is there is no discretion allowed.
Finley will get her day in court and if we had to guess, will have the charges dropped, and although this may not make her feel any better, what was most likely an oversight on her part years ago during a move will go away, she will have no record, and the issue will be resolved.
So who is the victim and who is the criminal here?
As for a victim, well that would be all of us in Pickens County. The backlash by the media’s sensational coverage has spilled over into all of our lives as we are painted as backwoods, uneducated rednecks who don’t know how to handle their business.
The stereotypes that have been propagated over the years about Southerners has been given new life, and by reporters and journalists no less, the very group supposedly charged to be the public’s arbiters of truth. In this case there was a good deal of truth left out.
The criminal in this case is an easy one. Just look at almost any report that was made about the incident and you will see how the story was crafted to be lurid and reflect poorly on the very men and women who did their jobs.
The single most powerful word in the English language is the word “why.” All someone had to do was ask officials why Finley was arrested after all of this time, and then report the truth, which was there was no choice in the matter.
According to the warrant, Finley didn’t return the tape, and no matter how small that may seem in the scheme of things, it’s against the law, simple mistake or not. No matter if it was Finley, you, me or the president who had their name on that warrant, an arrest should have been made.
And the right thing was done.
The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office did its job. End of story.