By Barney Blakeney
On Thursday, January 11, 2018, Reggie Burgess, 52, will be sworn in at the North Charleston City Council meeting at 7:00pm as the Police Chief of the North Charleston Police Department, becoming the agency’s ninth police chief since the city’s incorporation in 1972. Current Chief Eddie Driggers will transition into an administrative position to assist Mayor Summey as a Special Assistant to the Mayor.
Burgess is a life-long resident of the City of North Charleston. After graduating from Bonds-Wilson/North Charleston High School in 1984, Burgess attended Morgan State University, later receiving a dual degree from Claflin University, majoring in Criminal Justice and Sociology. He joined the ranks of the North Charleston Police Department, starting at the entry level of patrolman in 1989.
“When I was a teenager, growing up in various neighborhoods in North Charleston, there was a television show called “SWAT,” said Reggie Burgess. “Although it was Hollywood fiction, the show created a spark for me to explore serving my community through police work, to protect all who felt victimized. I knew becoming a police officer would allow me to have a direct impact on improving my city and the neighborhoods where I grew up.” He continued, “Becoming the police chief of the City of North Charleston is truly a blessing. Mayor Summey has entrusted me to positively motivate, influence, lead and guide the police department personnel, and to improve the quality of life for the citizens of North Charleston.”
Burgess often recounts a quote from his former high school principal, Theodore Collier, who said, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!” Over the last 29 years with the North Charleston Police Department, Burgess climbed the ranks of the department, and was named Assistant Chief of the department in 2013.
“Reggie Burgess embodies our city and his passion for this community is unparalleled,” said Summey. “His aptitude for the police work and crime-fighting knowledge will lead the department to new heights, and his presence in the neighborhoods signals a new dawn for community relations. Reggie has given his entire professional career to the North Charleston Police Department, and this appointment is a deserving achievement for an individual so intrinsically engrained in the community of North Charleston.”
South Carolina National Action Network President Elder James Johnson, a North Charleston resident and long-time critic of the department’s policies and practices after Monday’s announcement Burgess would lead North Charleston police said, “Since former Police Chief Jon Zumalt retired in 2013, I’ve called for a Black police chief in the City of North Charleston. Reggie Burgess was passed over to hire Driggers just because Driggers and the mayor are friends.”
That Burgess is from North Charleston and has lived in North Charleston Black communities all his life creates a unique bond with the city’s nearly 50 percent Black population, Johnson said. That bond will help Burgess in forging relationships that can impact the city’s unprecedented homicide rate, Johnson said. North Charleston had 35 homicides in 2017 making it one of the nation’s most dangerous cities per capita.
“Burgess is from the community and I feel like the people will embrace him. Burgess was caught between a rock and a hard place under previous administrations in the police department. Now that he’ll be chief, I believe he’ll do a good job. While our criticism of the department won’t stop because there’s a Black chief, I think it’s a new day in North Charleston,” Johnson said.