By Barney Blakeney
Just two years after being named North Charleston’s first Black police chief, Reggie Burgess has been nominated to become top cop at the S.C. Highway Patrol. I asked several North Charleston residents what they think.
Pastor Thomas Dixon just lost a bid to become the city’s mayor November 5. Dixon said Burgess likely is the most qualified candidate for the job; he questions the nomination’s timing. It came right after the municipal elections and Dixon suggests that timing may have been coordinate to allow incumbent Mayor Keith Summey to use Burgess’ prominence in the position as a political tool.
Dixon said Burgess should have been named chief six years ago and suggested politics and race played a role in Eddie Driggers getting the post instead. He further insinuate those dynamics also came into play when Burgess succeeded Driggers who then was elevated to hear the create position of Public Safety Director. Burgess, in effect, still reported to Driggers although he was chief.
Former North Charleston Branch NAACP President Ed Bryant called Burgess’ nomination a double-edged sword. While Burgess is due congratulations in receiving the nomination, he’ll leave a void that must be filled. It will be interesting to see who succeeds Burgess, Bryant said.
However there are critics to the nomination. One source said Burgess has spent his entire professional career at NCPD. And never has had autonomous authority. The source said the state highway patrol is a political animal where the culture imposes blatant racial disparities. The source offered that Burgess must be prepared for those challenges.
North Charleston City councilwoman Virginia Jamison said she’s praying that if confirmed, Burgess makes the right decision. He’s brought calm to a department rattled by persistent complaints against officers, police shootings, racially motivated traffic stops and the 2017 conviction of officer Michael Slager, the North Charleston police officer charged with violating the civil rights of Walter Scott, an unarmed man he killed two years prior. Slager pled guilty to the federal charges against him. Slager’s federal trial was set to begin but the plea bargain reached also impacted his retrial on state charges of murder in the incident. He was not retried.
“I want him to be successful,” Jamison said of Burgess, “but I also want him to stay.”