Coalition calls for transparency within Charleston Police Department budget

VIDEO: Coalition calls for transparency within Charleston Police Department budget

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A group of Lowcountry organizations are renewing calls for transparency within the Charleston Police Department.

The Charleston People’s Budget Coalition’s goals are to advocate for an equitable city budget and the elimination of poverty and racial disparities.

In 2020, the coalition called on the city to reallocate $5 million from the Charleston Police Department. They also asked for a specific budget of the department.

The city of Charleston approved a FY21 budget in December allocating roughly $54 million to the police department. The coalition is now submitting a Freedom of Information Act request for a detailed line-item budget of the department.

“We’re asking for transparency in CPD. We have asked for it last year and we were met with a lot of loopholes and run-arounds. So this time we’re asking again, adding a little more pressure and just demanding that they adhere to this FOIA request,” Charleston Black Lives Matter organizer Marcus McDonald said.

McDonald says the city has allocated too much money to the police department and some of those funds should be reallocated to programs that exist within the city of Charleston to help communities.

“We’d like to see that money invested. Originally we said 10 percent, and a lot of people agreed on that amount to be shifted into different programs especially with the youth. A lot of times [the police] criminalize Black youth,” McDonald said. “The [city] funnels money into the neighborhoods they want to and the parks they want to, but if you look at the east side right now 40 percent of black youth live in poverty.”

With the new calls for transparency, the City of Charleston says Mayor John Tecklenburg’s comments regarding the budget last year still stand today.

In that statement the mayor said, “The city of Charleston has one of the finest police departments in the country and we’re not going to defund it. In fact, we plan to keep making the kinds of investments in community policing that build trust and make all our citizens and neighborhoods safer. In addition, it’s important to note that we’re already funding the priorities they’re requesting at historic levels, with a $50 million affordable housing fund, a $22 million bike-ped bridge for the Ashley River, over $150 million in resilience and flooding projects currently underway, and an employee minimum wage with a total value of $21 an hour including benefits. In short, we’re investing in better policing and a stronger community at the same time, and that’s a win-win for all of us.”

In response to the budget request, city officials said, ”The Charleston Police Department’s detailed, line-item budget can be found on the city website, beginning on page 69. Consistent with Government Financial Officers Association (GFOA) guidelines, it contains every line item for every object code in the department. This is the detailed, line-item budget approved by City Council, and used by the national ratings agencies in determining the city’s AAA credit rating.”

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