The mayor is not happy.
For a month now, the Charleston Police Department has been beaten up, criticized, accused of racial profiling - and worse. A couple of people even erroneously claimed an officer shot a teen from behind.
And Joe Riley is about tired of it.
On top of all that, the NAACP is collecting accounts of racial profiling in the community with plans to ask the federal Justice Department to investigate city police.
No need to ask how the mayor feels about that.
This all stems from the death of Denzel Curnell on June 20. The local teenager died from a gunshot wound at the Bridgeview Apartments during an encounter with an off-duty city police officer working security for the complex.
A SLED investigation and Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said the forensic evidence shows Curnell shot himself with a gun that he was carrying, and the officer did nothing to warrant any charges.
But some folks are still upset. They say Curnell shouldn't have been stopped by the officer in the first place, that the whole incident could have been avoided if the young man hadn't been profiled by a city cop.
And that is what makes Riley really mad.
"The city of Charleston Police Department isn't involved in any kind of profiling, racial or otherwise," Riley says. "This is a safe city because we have a pro-active police department."
Curnell was walking through Bridgeview Apartments about 10:30 that night, apparently on his way to see friends.
And that, according to the city, was the problem.
Bridgeview has had a lot of trouble with crime - drug dealers, violence. They've even blocked some roads leading in and out of the apartments to cut down on drug traffic. In recent years, the city has beefed up patrols there and the owners have hired off-duty police to act as security.
It's had an effect. In 2009, there were 16 reported violent crimes at Bridgeview Apartments. Last year, there were three.
Bridgeview now has a no trespassing policy, which means if you don't live there, you don't go unless a resident invites you.
Riley says it's pretty standard for officers to stop anyone they don't recognize, ask them where they are headed, even escort them to the door of the person they say they're going to see.
Some civil rights types will tell you that in itself is unreasonable.
But the city doesn't see it that way. They believe it's all about safety.
"I don't think there's a neighborhood in Charleston where the residents would want someone walking around with a loaded handgun at 10:30 at night," Riley says.
"If so, show me where."
In fact, Riley says that he has recently been asked by other neighborhoods in the Neck Area for more police presence on the streets.
So, he says, he's not real concerned with this criticism.
In fact, he calls the NAACP's charges of racial profiling "unjust."
The mayor suspects at least 99 percent of Bridgeview residents are glad they have a safer neighborhood these days, and that is all thanks to the police.
He predicts the Justice Department will not investigate his police department, and says they wouldn't find anything wrong if they did.
Although the mayor has long had good relations in the black community, he couldn't care less about the NAACP's charges. Not about this.
"I just worry about whether the city is right or wrong - not criticism," Riley says.
But clearly it stings him a little.
The mayor is most likely correct when he says that most people approve of pro-active police tactics, of stopping suspicious people. A little more of that sort of policing and you might not have so many movie theaters and schools shot up.
But the NAACP's job is to question whether those tactics unnecessarily involve innocent citizens. Curnell had no criminal record, they say. Yes, the city says, but he had a loaded gun and additional bullets in his pocket.
The answers here aren't easy, and the police department is probably going to take a few more lumps. But don't expect Riley to back down. He is right, he is certain of it, and that public opinion is on his side.
"We'll ride this out," he says.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org
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