Local Police Agencies Working To Address Race Bias, Equity

By Barney Blakeney

In recent weeks Charleston and North Charleston police departments have continued efforts to address concerns about racial bias and discrimination. Charleston Police Department this month announced the assessment phase of its racial bias audit, and in May North Charleston police announced it will send all its officers through the Racial Equity Institute (REI) Training.

Both departments have been the focus of intense scrutiny over racial bias and discrimination. While Charleston police currently is undergoing a race bias audit, North Charleston police underwent a review by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). The report of that review has not been released.

The Racial Equity Institute (REI) Training hosted by the YWCA of Charleston and its partners is designed to help leaders and organizations who want to proactively understand and address racism, both in their organization and in the community where the organization is working. Metanoia Community Development Corporation of North Charleston’s Chicora/Cherokee community facilitated the enrollment of three senior NCPD officers in an earlier REI Training. Their feedback inspired North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess to find a way for all of North Charleston’s officers to attend the training.

The YWCA offered reduced prices to the department and the Coastal Community Foundation is providing a three-year $16,000 grant to further reduce costs. It will take three years for the department’s 350 officers to attend the training which is offered six to eight times per year and limited to 40 attendees.

“Given the NCPD’s past history I think it says a lot that Chief Burgess is investing department resources for all of his officers to attend this training. It will not solve everything, but it is a step in the right direction,” said Metanoia CEO Rev. Bill Stanfield.

Burgess said, “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.”

REI training includes: development of a plan for change, which will include specific and meaningful goals as well as an action plan to reach those goals; ongoing reflection designed to both evaluate the group’s progress and document lessons learned as the organization moves through the process; periodic check-ins to insure that the organization is receiving the support it needs to be successful; an organizational assessment phase to help everyone understand the attitudes and feelings about racism that exist throughout the organization; Racial Equity Institute, LLC workshop(s) which offer an analysis of racism and support in adopting a common understanding of the problem; and an analysis of the organization’s stage of development in becoming an anti-racist organization.

Since February CNA, the company hired by the City of Charleston to conduct an independent race bias audit of its police department has conducted over 75 interviews with CPD personnel, met with community groups and city officials, attended master roll calls, gone on ride-alongs and held community meetings where they met with over 250 community members.  Its audit examines CPD’s policies and procedures in the following areas: 1) Use of Force; 2) Traffic Stops and Field Contacts; 3) Internal/External Complaints; 4) Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention; and 5) Community Engagement.

“We have started discussing improvements in our complaint/internal investigation process, internal accountability and reporting to the community, collecting and using more complete data sets, leadership training and mentoring programs,” said Chief Luther Reynolds. “We are learning a great deal about our organization through this process and will continue to look for more ways to improve. The scheduled site visits from CNA are complete. Their team is working on analyzing the data and creating a draft report which they hope to share when they return for community meetings in September,” he added.

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