Have something to say about North Charleston police? Officials want to hear it.
A national foundation is helping the North Charleston Police Department gather residents' input to shape improvements to community relations, policies, procedures and training.
An anonymous online survey launched Tuesday prompts residents to share their interactions with officers and rate police on factors related to effectiveness and professionalism.
In a video posted on the city's Facebook page, Chief Reggie Burgess said results will be released to the public.
"The survey is an important part of our ability to advance policing through community and the police department," said Burgess, who has touted community policing as one solution to preventing violent crime that made 2017 the city's deadliest year on record.
The survey is being administered by the Police Foundation, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that seeks to improve policing through innovation and science.
The foundation is contracted by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, to offer assistance to North Charleston in areas such as violence reduction, technology and officer training.
The effort comes after city leaders and public officials, including Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., unsuccessfully urged the Justice Department to release its report from a sweeping review of the police department. The COPS review came to a halt last year when Attorney General Jeff Sessions pulled the plug on such reform assessments.
The Justice Department has so far denied requests for the report and any notes from the review that began at the city's request in 2016, one year after a North Charleston officer fatally shot Walter Scott. It was expected to provide a top-to-bottom analysis and recommendations on policies and policing practices.
In the absence of the COPS report, Keon Rhodan, chairman of the North Charleston Citizens' Advisory Commission on Community-Police Relations, said the results of the survey will help gauge how the department is meeting the community’s needs.
"I think it’s a very good next option because it’s still the ... Department of Justice," he said. "They’re just using the Police Foundation to gather information."
Rhodan said members of the advisory commission have brainstormed promoting the survey on social media, in churches, on the radio, through neighborhood associations and via fliers posted at libraries.
"My only concern is wanting to make sure some of the younger folks take it," he said.
The survey requires less than 10 minutes to complete and includes questions such as whether participants trust police, how likely they would be to cooperate with officers and if police treat people fairly. Residents are given the opportunity to elaborate on their encounters with officers and overall thoughts about the department, whether "good or bad."
The Police Foundation said it will not forward individual responses to the department.
Local officials have not said how long the survey will remain online. The Police Foundation did not respond to interview requests Tuesday.
The survey will soon be available in Spanish, according to police spokesman Spencer Pryor.
Lydia Cotton, a longtime liaison between officials and North Charleston's Hispanic community, has started sharing the survey with her networks. She said she hoped the community will take advantage of this opportunity to "really say what they have on their mind."
Language barriers and fear among non-citizens have for years spurred communication gaps between the city’s Latino population and authorities, Cotton said.
"It’s up to us to come forward and really engage," she said of the community. "The doors of the city are wide open, and the survey is a great tool to start a conversation."