NORTH CHARLESTON (WCSC) - The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an independent review of the North Charleston Police Department with the goal of improving the agency's relationship with the community.
Chief Noble Wray, leader the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, and Chief of Police Eddie Driggers announced the effort at a press conference Tuesday morning.
Wray said tragic community events are usually catalysts to reviews by the Justice Department, and in this case, it was the shooting of Walter Scott by former North Charleston officer Michael Slager that sparked Mayor Summey to ask for the review.
"There was a tragedy, there was a call in this community and the government heard it," Nettles said.
"I think that served as a catalyst, the starting point why we are here today," Wray said.
"We determined that North Charleston was an appropriate candidate for the collaborative reform process," said Wray. "Being open to an independent and objective assessment, no matter the results, shows a level of leadership and commitment that we seek from our partners in collaborative reform. The leaders of North Charleston have shown that commitment."
"The COPS Office will work with the North Charleston Police Department to develop a report that specifically identifies ways to improve the understanding and trust between local law enforcement and the community at-large and other issues that may surface during the assessment phase," adds the Justice Department in a press release.
Summey said the city has a good police department.
He is hoping justice officials will come up with recommendations that will make it a great police department.
"The ultimate goal is to enhance the quality of life of all our citizens, develop a better relationship within the community and we're more than willing to take recommendations from DOJ to help us accomplish that," Summey said.
The review will last a little over two years, with a new report coming out every six months or so.
Police officers and members of the community will be interviewed and there will also be ride-alongs with officers.
Within the first six to eight months, Justice Department officials will release an assessment report of the North Charleston Police Department. The assessment, which will include findings and suggestions for improvement, will be made available to the public.
Officials will then assess how the police department implements their suggestions, issuing a progress report six months later. In another six months, the department will release a final report.
Wray said the police department entered the review willingly, and he and Summey have been discussing it since Christmas.
He plans to hold listening sessions with North Charleston community members in about three weeks.
Slager faces a state murder charge, as well as federal charges including violating Walter Scott's civil rights, using a weapon during the commission of a violent crime and obstruction of justice. He was arraigned on the federal charges last week.
At the press conference, Nettles said while Slager is presumed innocent, he and the Justice Department have an extreme commitment to civil rights, and he is proud the federal charges were filed.