Today, with help from community partners, the North Charleston Police Department is announcing a bold goal to send all of its officers to a two-day racial equity training hosted by YWCA Greater Charleston.
The Racial Equity Institute (REI) training is designed to help leaders, individuals, and organizations proactively understand and address institutional racism, both in their organizations and in the communities where they work.
Metanoia Community Development Corporation facilitated the enrollment of three senior North Charleston police officers in an earlier REI training, and their feedback inspired North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess to look for a way for all North Charleston police officers to attend the training.
“The North Charleston Police Department created three central themes in 2019: strengthening partnerships with the community we serve, the reduction of crime, and the creation of safe neighborhoods. We are always looking for opportunities to further build trust and open dialogue with our citizens and communities. To that end, the YWCA-Coastal Community Foundation-Metanoia sponsored training will provide officers with much-needed insight on relationship building and help us gain clarity on the impact of racism and biases,” Chief Burgess said.
The Greensboro, N.C.-based Racial Equity Institute, an alliance of trainers, organizers, and institutional leaders who have devoted themselves to creating racially equitable organizations and systems, developed a framework used by organizations across the country. YWCA Greater Charleston brought REI’s training workshops to the Charleston region in January 2017 with support from Metanoia and Coastal Community Foundation, among others.
YWCA Greater Charleston offered reduced pricing to the police department, and Coastal Community Foundation is providing a three-year, $18,000 grant from the Lowcountry Unity Fund to further reduce the cost to the department. The Lowcountry Unity Fund was created in the wake of the Emanuel AME tragedy to promote long-term solutions addressing systemic racism.
This week the first 30 North Charleston police officers to attend the program will have completed the training. It will take three years for all 350 North Charleston police officers to attend the training, which is offered six to eight times per year and is limited to 40 attendees per session to facilitate effective conversations.
Organizers see value in having officers attend the REI training with civilians. “When Chief Burgess called me to express an interest in sending officers through REI training, we wanted to do all we could to support his bold leadership,” said Rev. Bill Stanfield, CEO of Metanoia. “We reached out to the leadership at YWCA Greater Charleston and Coastal Community Foundation, and they have been eager to lend a hand as well.”
“We were delighted when Metanoia approached us to express interest in the Racial Equity Institute on behalf of the North Charleston Police Department,” said Tina L. Singleton, social justice coordinator at YWCA Greater Charleston, who coordinates the program. “We’ve seen tremendous results from the REI trainings, and we see REI as having a positive impact both on the police force and on the North Charleston community it serves.”
“Our support of REI is an extension of our conviction to embed inclusion with equity in all that we do,” said Coastal Community Foundation president and CEO Darrin Goss. “I applaud the leadership of Chief Burgess for taking this bold step to ensure that all his officers understand the historical implications of structural racism and how it affects the police department’s work in our community.”
The North Charleston Police Department believes this effort can be a real step forward in further improving community police relationships, particularly when those relationships have been at times historically strained along the lines of race. Its partners appreciate the leadership of the North Charleston Police Department and look forward to supporting its desire to continue to find ways to improve its officers’ ability to build relationships in communities in the most effective manner possible.