Community weighs in on North Charleston racial bias audit

VIDEO: Community weighs in on North Charleston racial bias audit

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The North Charleston community is weighing in on the discussion around racial bias in the North Charleston Police Department.

CNA, a non-profit research group, is conducting an audit of the police department. The group held a virtual community session on Tuesday to hear citizens’ concerns.

“The community listening sessions are an opportunity for our assessment team to hear from the community directly about their concerns about the North Charleston police department; what they feel like they are doing well and what areas could be improved in their policies and practices,” CNA Senior Research Scientist Zoe Thorkildsen said.

The group will use the information they receive, community interviews, department personnel interviews, and other data to develop findings and recommendations for the city and police department to implement.

During the meeting, community members said there is a real need for police officers to understand the communities that they serve and work in and treat individual with respects. They also stressed the need for more training for officers, as well as the need to make sure they are being recruited appropriately and assessed well during the process.

Pastor Thomas Dixon, a known activist in the North Charleston community, says there have been issues with law enforcement for a long time, especially in marginalized communities.

“Little black and brown children have stopped saying I want to grow up to be a police officer a long time ago. They don’t say that anymore because law enforcement has created a culture and a thought process that they are actually the enemy,” Dixon said. “You can’t just talk about this, there has to meaningful interactions, and changes in policy and procedure from law enforcements. Then, the community will build up trust after a while.”

Dixon says while this assessment is a good thing, this should have been done a long time ago, especially after Walter Scott was shot and killed by a former North Charleston Police officer in 2015.

“God only knows how many bridges could’ve already been built that now we have to start six years after the fact,” he said.

North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess says the police department is not running these public listening sessions and he wants people to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.

“Whatever we can do to be better at what we’re doing, we’re going to fully accept it and put it into place, innovate that thing, and then put it out there so our citizens, they’ll know that we really are the service that we want to be for them,” Chief Burgess said.

The second community session will happen Wednesday evening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. To register, click here.

People can also email their concerns at any time to CNA at JusticeCenter@cna.org.

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