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North Charleston Police
Do you think that the North Charleston Police Department has taken appropriate steps towards reform a year after the Walter Scott shooting?
BLM Arrest A Tactic To Delay Review Board
7/27/2016 6:12:18 PM

(center) Activist Muhiyidin d'Baha
By Barney Blakeney

Last week’s arrest of black activist Muhiyidin d’Baha, an organizer with the Black Lives Matter Charleston organization, at a July 21 North Charleston Public Safety Committee meeting renewed focus on a call for a citizens review board of the city’s police department. But it may be some time before the city responds beyond making arrests.

D’Baha, along with some 50 supporters, attended the committee meeting to show support for efforts to improve the department since the April 2015 killing of Walter Scott, who was shot in the back by a North Charleston policeman during a traffic stop. D’Baha was arrested while trying to make a statement from the floor during the meeting and was charged with disorderly conduct. D’Baha said there was some conflict about whether he would be allowed to speak during the meeting.

Black Lives Matter Charleston contends current efforts to develop a new citizens review board of the police lacks adequate community input. The city is working to develop a new panel, but that effort includes only the administration’s hand-picked community representatives, d’Baha said. His attempt to be heard was met with the bullying tactic of his arrest, he said.

The department has a citizens police review board established during the administration of former Chief Jon Zumalt. That board continues to function, said police spokesman Spencer Pryor. Its initiatives have included community relations and gun buyback events, Pryor said. Black Lives Matter and other members of a coalition formed after Scott’s murder, the North Charleston Civil Coalition for Reform, wants a new board with subpoena power. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey flatly rejects the proposal.

Pryor said a new board without subpoena power is being developed. But it’s unlikely the new board will be seated before next year, he said.

South Carolina National Action Network State Coordinator James Johnson said his organization supports Black Lives Matter’s efforts, though the National Action Network subscribes to different approaches to addressing the issues.

“We have the same goals, so of course we support them. But there must be a plan to civil disobedience beyond getting arrested. There is no divide among us, but we believe this is an economic fight and a political fight. We will get a review board and we will get it using our votes and our dollars,” Johnson said.

North Charleston NAACP President Ed Bryant said his organization supports the effort to implement a citizens review board, but he’s convinced it’s more important to emphasize policy reform that prevents the need for review.

“We’ve already got a review board. Had it done what it was supposed to, Walter Scott’s murder may not have happened. A review board is one element in an array of initiatives that should be implemented. Black Lives Matter should be recognized as the civil rights organization it is and deserves respect for taking their position. Instead the administration is trying to portray them as terrorists. I don’t like the fact that d’Baha was arrested,” Bryant said.

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