About 25 people turned out Tuesday night to give their feedback to the U.S. Justice Department and the North Charleston Police Department on the formation of a citizens board to advise police officials.
For the second night in a row, Walter Atkinson, a Justice Department community relations expert, presented North Charleston community members with a draft of a plan including the board’s mission, purpose, responsibilities and qualifications for members. The community engagement forum was held at The Cathedral of Praise on Ashley Phosphate Road.
A working group of people began meeting in May 2015, in the wake of the Walter Scott shooting, with Atkinson, North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers and Mayor Keith Summey, who was not at the event. They made the recommendations in the draft after reviewing five other police departments’ citizens advisory councils from across the nation.
Many of the same people spoke at Monday’s forum.
Community activist Louis Smith said he was disappointed in how “top-heavy” the board is presented based on its selection process and suggested it be more neutral for residents.
“We feel the Justice Department has let us down,” he said. “We’re at a point where we want to start the process all over again.”
In the draft, members are to be selected and appointed by city officials. Founding members of a police panel formed in North Charleston in 2008 also can continue to serve on the new board or be replaced by Driggers if they choose not to continue, according to the draft.
Some of the qualifications for members are that they reside in the city and that they not have a felony conviction or more than one misdemeanor, which was heavily criticized Tuesday.
City Councilman Mike Brown voiced his disapproval of the criminal record clause in the document. He said criminal records didn’t mean people couldn’t be productive community members.
“It’s not synonymous,” he said. “I am really for this commission or this process being open to everybody.”
Reach Melissa Boughton at 843-937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughtonPC.