The NAACP and law enforcement officials in Charleston met Thursday after police officers and deputies were accused of racial profiling. Earlier this month, the ACLU released numbers outlining the racial bias in marijuana arrests across the nation.
According to the 2010 report, blacks were arrested roughly three times more often than whites for marijuana possession in Charleston County. Sheriff Al Cannon and Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen say they found the report disturbing. Both say they do not dispute the numbers in the report. Their problem is with how the data is being interpreted, suggesting their officers and deputies are racially biased. They say their increased presence in black communities is a result of the feedback they receive from some of the people who live in those neighborhoods.
"We're not going to the predominantly white communities as a result of complaints about drug dealing on the corner," said Cannon. "If we did, you would see a difference in these percentages."
"You don't want me to stand up here and tell you that there's no bias going on in law enforcement across the country, and I'm not going to do that, and I don't want you to stand up and say all the police officers across the country are ill-willed and racist because they're not," said Mullen.
Dot Scott, the president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP, says the data is extremely revealing and very upsetting.
"When we know, while it may not be intentional, while it may not have been pre-planned, while we may even know that it would not be condoned, racial profiling happens, and it happens far too often in our community," said Scott.
Both sides expressed their willingness and desire to work together to crack down on drug abuse. Chief Mullen says the challenge is how to keep marijuana use from rising in certain age groups.
According to the ACLU, South Carolina spent $49 million on marijuana arrests in 2010.