Charleston Police chief on racial bias audit: ‘We own it and we embrace it’

Charleston Police chief on racial bias audit: ‘We own it and we embrace it’
The Charleston Police Department received the final report of the Racial Bias Audit conducted by nonprofit CNA. As previously released in the preliminary report, there were 48 findings noted and recommendations for change. (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston Police Department received the final report on a racial bias audit of the agency.

As the preliminary report showed when it was released at the end of September, there were 48 findings noted and recommendations to resolve those concerns, according to Charleston Police spokesman Charles Francis. The police department began addressing some of the findings during the auditing process.

“We own this audit and we embrace it,” Police Chief Luther Reynolds said. “It will make us better as a department and it will strengthen the bond between the police and the community.”

CLICK HERE to see the full audit.

The Department will use this opportunity to show its continued commitment to transparency and engagement with the community, Francis said.

Charleston City Council voted unanimously on Dec. 18, 2018 to approve the hiring of an external company, CNA, to examine the agency’s policies and procedures in the following areas:

  • Use of force
  • Traffic stops and field contacts
  • Internal/External complaints
  • Recruitment and hiring
  • Community engagement

The preliminary report detailed much of the findings.

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.

The audit 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.

Copyright 2019 WCSC. All rights reserved.