By Barney Blakeney
North Charleston Police Department is conducting an online survey to help assess its effectiveness and community relations. Not everyone welcomes the effort, but some say a little honey is better than none at all.
North Charleston police are among the most criticized in the region. The 2015 police shooting death of Walter Scott epitomized criticism the department’s officers discriminate against Blacks, sometimes with deadly force. And in a July 14 press release the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational fund, Inc. Senior Communications Associate David Jacobs reported African Americans filed nearly twice as many complaints as their White counterparts, but that complaints filed by African Americans were sustained only 31 percent of the time as opposed to complaints filed by Whites, which were sustained 50 percent of the time.
Since Scott’s death, citizens have called for a federal review of the department. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) conducted a year-long assessment of the department although citizens wanted a review that would mandate reforms. Last year COPS announced it would not provide a report of its assessment.
In the interim, North Charleston officials created a citizens advisory commission on community and police relations. Members of the commission will perform several functions including reviewing police policies, traffic stops and internal investigations data, hearing residents’ complaints and helping to recruit new officers. City council members unanimously approved the proposal. But despite its range, some in North Charleston feel the commission’s powers don’t reach far enough.
North Charleston Branch NAACP President Ed Bryant said the new survey also doesn’t reach far enough and the department still hasn’t implemented any reforms, he said. “I think this is just a front,” he said.
According to North Charleston officials, the survey is being conducted by the Police Foundation, a nonprofit, non-member organization dedicated to improving policing. The survey has been prepared by researchers across the nation. It is entirely independent and supported and funded by the National Institute of Justice of the U.S. Department of Justice. The purpose is to better understand the work of police officers and to identify opportunities to improve their profession.
North Charleston City councilwoman Virginia Jamison said, “I applaud the appointment of our new police chief, Chief Reggie Burgess. I am asking each community to support these new initiatives. I did not answer the survey, but I did read each section. It had good questions and it allowed citizens to express themselves. I immediately asked that the survey be made available in a hard copy so that we can get input from a larger population. Any steps made in our community/police agenda, are good steps. I am also hoping that our Citizen Advisory Commission on Community-Police Relations would also get this survey out to the communities.”