The Dorchester County Sheriff's Office has formed a Citizens Advisory Council to open a dialogue between residents and law enforcement.
The council will consist of a group of selected county residents with the goal of helping the office identify needs and challenges in the community.
Sheriff L.C. Knight said the decision to launch the council came in response to the protests across the country following George Floyd's May 25 death at the hands of Minneapolis police. Marches down North Main Street to Summerville's Hutchinson Square were among the numerous events organized around the state.
Kaneisha Smalls is a lifelong Summerville resident who attended one of the town marches in June with her children. She said change has to begin in the local community.
"We are just fed up. ... If we don't start at home, we don't have any hope," she said.
Knight said more Dorchester County residents have also reached out to the Sheriff's Office to voice questions and concerns.
“I’m just looking forward to the feedback," he said.
The Sheriff's Office is going to attempt to make the council as diverse as possible to reflect the demographics of the county. The plan is to have the advisory council be a conduit for information between the agency and residents.
It will allow the community to voice opinions and ideas to the department, highlighting potential blind spots in law enforcement. Residents will also get access to more information about what is happening internally with the department, including resources and budgeting.
There are 147 deputies working for Knight. The department hopes to add more. Ride-alongs with advisory council members and deputies are also being considered once the group has been selected.
“I think it's going to help us better understand our community," Knight said. “If they don’t help us, we can’t serve them properly.”
To get an application for an advisory council position, residents can reach out to Lt. Rick Carson at 843-832-0340 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To be a part of the council a person must be at least 21 years old, be a Dorchester County resident and complete a criminal background check.
Having a criminal history, in general, will not disqualify a person from being on the council. That history will be evaluated to determine its severity, Knight said.