NAACP throws support behind police listening sessions

NAACP Charleston Branch President Dot Scott voices her support for the Illumination Project Thursday morning alongside Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen and Mayor John Tecklenburg.

Flanked by Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and Police Chief Greg Mullen, NAACP Charleston Branch President Dot Scott encouraged community members to attend the Illumination Project listening sessions to improve police-citizen relationships.

“Oftentimes in the past ... the NAACP and the police department haven’t always been on the same page,” Scott said Thursday morning in a news conference outside the Shaw Community Center on the East Side. “That’s why I’m here: So we can work on that, so we’re not talking to each other but talking with each other.”

Meant to harness the community goodwill that arose in the aftermath of last year’s Emanuel AME Church shooting, the Illumination Project has seen local leaders sharing ideas with police about how to improve community relations. The NAACP will co-host the next Illumination Project meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the International Longshoremen’s Association Hall at 1142 Morrison Drive.

“Having it in certain areas makes a difference,” Scott said. “You’ve got to meet people where they are.”

The police department has been trying to organize a listening session at the Bridgeview Village apartment complex, the site of the June 2014 death of Denzel Curnell.

A graduate of Burke High, Curnell died of a gunshot wound after an off-duty police officer pursued him because he was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt at night in warm weather. Authorities determined the gunshot was self-inflicted, but many community members remain suspicious of the police narrative of the event.

Mullen said police would make sure Bridgeview residents are aware of the Wednesday listening session, which will take place near their neighborhood. He said Scott’s endorsement of the Illumination Project represented “a monumental moment” for him.

“I think this initiative in Charleston has the potential to change many, many things,” Mullen said. “If you look at the mission of what the NAACP does, which is guarantee the civil rights of people, and if you look at what the police do, which is create public safety, that’s exactly what this project is all about, is balancing those two very important values for our community.”

For a complete list of upcoming Illumination Project listening sessions, go to charlestonpolicefund.org.

Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546 or twitter.com/paul_bowers.