Charleston police, community leaders discuss police presence in racial justice town hall

Charleston police, community leaders discuss police presence in racial justice town hall

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston Police Department, community groups, and faith-based leaders came together Thursday night for a conversation about racial justice.

The "Our Lives, Our Police, Our Community" town hall was hosted by the Charleston chapter of AND Campaign, an organization committed to "redemptive justice and value-based policy."

Panelists held discussions with Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds as well as answered questions that were asked by community members. The majority of the conversation focused on policing and the black community.

Although there were moments where most parties agreed on a variety of topics, there was doubt about whether extra policing is going to help minority communities.

Recently, the Charleston Police Department announced an initiative to increase their police presence throughout the city. It was met with mixed reviews.

Reynolds said that in every community he has been to they have asked for more police presence.

Panelists said that there is no data backing up the fact that extra police presence will make the community safer.

Frank Knaack, the executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, said that the claim that residents want more policing dismisses the Charleston residents that have spoken out on the issue.

"We need more services and less policing, yet CPD and city are going in the opposite direction," Knaack said.

Instead, representatives of the different organizations said that there should be more funds allocated to resources that could help the community.

“We’ve got to understand what does make a community better; investing in education, investing in economic opportunities, those kinds of things,” said Treva Williams, a representative of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry. “Increasing police is a placebo effect.”

In response, Reynolds said that they have been focused on better practices and changing the way the department operates.

He did insist that the police presence was needed.

“As a police officer, as a member of our community, we have an obligation to try and help and not to be a militaristic force,” Reynolds said. “Everybody is a part of safe community. It is not a police-centered issue, it’s about everybody working hand in hand together.”

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