Charleston Police Department receives preliminary report on racial bias audit

VIDEO: Charleston Police Department receives preliminary report on racial bias audit

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston Police Department says it has received a preliminary report on a detailed review of whether racial bias plays a role in the department’s policies, procedures and practices.

The report identified 48 areas for possible improvement and provided recommendations for each.

City officials say the report, which was released Monday, is preliminary and will be followed by a 30-day community review and comment period before CNA finalizes it.

The report identified several areas it suggests police address “to ensure greater accountability and further improve its relationship with the community.”

Those areas include:

  • Racial disparity in traffic stops
  • Poor data-collection practices
  • Lack of clarity in policies on use of force and professional standards
  • Gaps in efforts to engage various segments of the community substantively
  • Lack of accountability mechanisms

The report states the department’s traffic unit does not have a guiding policy or field guide, lacks an established strategic plan and does not have established internal reporting and review mechanisms to help them assess the impact of strategies on reducing traffic fatalities. It also found the department’s data structure, including how use of force incidents are described and how they are coded in reports, makes it harder to analyze trends in use of force and racial disparities.

It also found that the department does not have an established compliance and auditing process for its officers’ body-worn cameras. It claims the agency’s retention schedules for a number of incident types are not long enough “and may present potential issues in evidence retention, auditing and compliance.”

It found data errors it suggests are the results of improper reporting. It cited two incidents that appeared, the way data was reported, that employees had action taken on a complaint against them before the incident took place.

The report states internal complaints have dropped in half over the five-year period, and suggests the department conduct “an in-depth exploration” of internal complaints to determine what caused those complaints to drop.

The organization also recommended clarifying how complaints, both internal and external, are handled, establishing a formal process to follow up with community members who file complaints and expand initiatives to engage and build relationships with youth in communities as part of its community-policing initiatives.

“Although CPD has begun addressing a number of these findings and recommendations, continued effort and engagement with both officers and the community will be critical to ensuring the successful implementation and sustainability of these improvements,” the report states.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds released a joint statement after the report was released:

“This preliminary report is a critical step in the Charleston Police Department’s ongoing efforts to protect and serve all our citizens with dignity and respect. In it, you will find a thorough assessment of where we’ve been, where we are, and even more important, where we’re going, with a series of thoughtful recommendations for improvement in departmental policies, procedures, training and more. On behalf of our city, we embrace these preliminary findings, and look forward to hearing more from our community during the review process.”

Audit focused on multiple areas of police department’s operations

The racial bias audit, conducted by nonprofit CNA Corporation, began early this year and examined and assessed key practices within the department. The report analyzed the impact of enforcement operations on historically marginalized and discriminated against populations; community-oriented policing practices throughout the department; the complaint process (internal and external) and the agency’s recruitment, hiring, promotions and personnel practices.

The audit included interviews with department personnel and city and community leaders and multiple community meetings.

Earlier in September, the group provided preliminary data to city council. One of the big takeaways from that report suggested there are multiple areas in which a policy or field guide needs to be developed along with a strategic plan.

The team also found there were clear disparities when it came to traffic stops ending in warnings. Black drivers were over-represented, but only marginally by 2% on traffic stops ending in citations. Those with the CNA team also said black drivers were twice as likely to be searched when a warning is issued.

Additionally, CNA found there was no strategy in community engagement and suggested that needed to improve.

Charleston City Council voted in December to spend approximately $158,000 to the CNA Corporation.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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