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November Election Is An Opportunity To Change North Charleston Police Culture
4/22/2015 4:54:15 PM

North Charleston City Mayor Keith Summey and North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers at Press Conference at North Charleston City Hall April 8. Photo: AP/Jim Watson
By Barney Blakeney

The April 4 police shooting death of Walter L. Scott by North Charleston police officer Michael T. Slager who shot the unarmed Scott in the back as he ran away is symptomatic of some problems in the police department that may be addressed with a new police and municipal administration, says the former president of one neighborhood association.

Former Union Heights Neighborhood Association President Rahim Karriem said Slager’s eight shots fired at Scott as he ran away after a routine traffic stop demonstrated aspects of a culture that exists in the department manifested by police abuse. That should change.

The November general elections, when North Charleston residents will elect the city’s mayor and city council members, represents an opportunity to make that change, Karriem said. After that, a new administration should change the leadership in the police department, he added.

Initially Slager said Scott tried to tase him during a struggle which led to Slager’s use of deadly force. City officials initially repeated that story. Slager, who is white, said he felt threatened when he shot Scott, who is Black, as they struggled over Slager’s taser. The video shows Scott was shot as he ran away from Slager after being tased.

Karriem said that the first officer arriving at the scene of the shooting apparently acted in support of Slager whose fabricated version of the incident indicated Scott was an aggressor whom Slager had to fight off. The video showed that the second officer offered no assistance to Scott who lay dying from his wounds. “The officer immediately started to cover for Slager instead of investigating. That shows that the culture in the department is first to protect officers rather than citizens,” Karriem said.

He said the actions of police Chief Ed Driggers and Mayor Keith Summey serves to facilitate the culture of indifference and abuse that characterizes North Charleston’s police department.

“Summey and Driggers didn’t arrest Slager because they wanted to, they arrested him because they had to,” Karriem asserted. “Until the culture in the police department changes citizens, especially African American citizens, will continue to be abused. The city’s 47 percent African American population can elect leadership that will change the culture in the department.”

North Charleston City Councilman Sam Hart has a somewhat different view. He called Slager a rotten egg. Police departments interview candidates, hires them, trains them and trusts that the relationship established between the administration, the officer and the public served is a positive one.

“Ever so often you get a rotten egg,” Hart said. “Unfortunately, that’s becoming pandemic across the United States. We have to re-establish trust.”

Hart, who is seeking a fourth four-year term in office in November said he doesn’t feel the city needs a change in its administration or that of the police department. Voters get that opportunity every four years, he said.

Visitor Comments

Submitted By: Jerome Miller Submitted: 4/25/2015
Mr. Hart appears to not understand stand the problem confronting N. Charleston, and other communities in this country. The Police Chief employ all his Officers. The Mayor employs the Police Chief. The one thing both of them has to keep in retrospect is, they both work for the community, and the department should represent and be a reflection of such. If the city is 47 percent African American , then the police department , and all others should reflect that. The community should take blame partially for the problems. Should you not be politically involved, vote, and attend meetings, then you get what you get.

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