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NAACP Leads Demand For N. Chas Police Investigation
7/15/2015 1:11:34 PM

Ed Bryant

North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers
Staff Reports

As emotions related to the removal of the Confederate Flag from the S.C. Statehouse grounds subside and the outrage of those shocked at the murders of nine Black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church begin to quell, the National NAACP Monday answered demands for substantive action opposing racial discrimination in South Carolina by calling for a U.S. Justice Dept. investigation of North Charleston police activities.

North Charleston Branch NAACP President Ed Bryant said the organization’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund along with over two dozen civil rights organizations and individuals asked for a federal investigation of what he describes as a pattern of discrimination and deaths of Black males over two decades. Those deaths range from the 2000 police shooting death of Edward Snowden up to the April 4 police shooting death of Walter Scott.

American Civil Liberties Union South Carolina Director Victoria Middleton said her organization has joined the effort to make sure that addressing racial discrimination doesn’t stop with memorials to the Emanuel Nine.

“We don’t want Walter Scott and other victims killed over the years to be forgotten. We agree with the NAACP that it’s time to investigate the North Charleston Police Department and we hope that law enforcement will respond constructively.

Too often we tend to say these incidents are the acts of one bad officer. But there have been a number of those incidents over the last 10 years locally and in our state. We need to take a look at police practices,” she said.

In its letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch the NAACP-led coalition said while they are pleased the Confederate Flag has come down they must now push for structural change.

The flag was a symbol of insensitivity, but no real reconciliation can happen without systemic institutional changes. The killing of Walter Scott must be understood in the context of police problems and brutality in North Charleston, they said. The letter offered examples of excessive use of force by North Charleston police officers over the past 15 years.

“These acts of police violence against African American residents are not isolated incidents,” said defense fund Senior Policy Counsel Monique Dixon. “The recent videotaped police killing of Walter Scott, while shocking, occurred within a seemingly normalized culture of racially-based policing and excessive use of force that has long plagued North Charleston.”

Additionally, the request offered evidence of racial profiling in traffic stops. Though 47 percent of the city’s residents are Black and 42 percent are white, since 2011 65 percent of drivers stopped, but not ticketed were Black compared to 33 percent white drivers.

“It’s past time to take a deeper look at how racial bias has permeated our institutions in South Carolina,” said Middleton. “Longstanding complaints from the community, capped by Walter Scott’s tragic death, raise questions that can’t be brushed aside.”

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