Charleston Police Preliminary Audit Not Egregious, But Department Has Work To Do

By Barney Blakeney

Preliminary results of the Charleston Police CNA race bias audit were released last week.

The preliminary report consists of some 135 pages that include five sections: Traffic Stops and Field Contacts; Use of force; Complaints; Community Oriented Policing Practices; Recruitment, Hiring, Promotions and Personnel Practices; and Appendixes. Here are some highlights from the report.

Currently the department has some 450 sworn employees and 120 non-sworn employees, said Chief Luther Reynolds. Among sworn employees about 75 percent are white and 22 percent are Black. Fewer than two percent of employees are Asian and about two percent are categorized as other. The vast majority of employees who work either in operations or investigation/support are white.

The audit looked at use of force by the department’s officers over the past five years and found that from 2014-2018 there were about 1,355 incidents of use of force involving 437 officers. The department averaged about 271 incidents each year. Most involved possible armed suspect, resisting and/or non-compliance issues. Most officers involved were about 30 years old and had about five years of experience with the department. Of the community members involved the average age was about 30 and the subject was male. Sixty-one percent were Black. Compared to 2017 population records, the report noted Black community members were overrepresented in use of force incidents.

Traffic Stops and Field Contacts was an area that also reported notable disparities. Analysis of the data revealed there are racial disparities in stops that resulted in the issuance of citations versus warnings. However the data showed more stops resulted in warnings than citations. In field contacts most were initiated for ‘suspicious person’ reasons when race was a factor. The report cautioned over-interpretation of the results.

The audit analyzed 89 complaints that included some 187 allegations from 92 citizens. The average complainant’s age was about 40. Slightly more than half were male and about 63 percent were Black. The more common allegations related to courtesy and customer service. Fifty-nine of 185 allegations were sustained while 61 were determined unfounded.

While the department in recent years has increased its focus on community engagement, the report said there is concern about a lack of familiarity with neighborhood patrol officers and that officers lack understanding or knowledge of citizens’ rights. Citizens cited a need for greater interaction with youths.

In its conclusion the audit team said the department’s willingness to participate and begin making changes indicates it is on the right path to transformation. However the 48 findings in the report indicate CPD has much work to do to mitigate the issues uncovered. The final report is due in about 30 days. To see the report, use this link: https://www.charleston-sc.gov/2250/Racial-Bias-Audit.

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