With a racial bias audit of the Charleston Police Department underway, residents will have four opportunities this week to take part in the process by sharing their experiences with officers and providing other input.
Virginia-based research firm CNA will hold four community meetings this week where they will introduce the research team conducting the audit. Residents will be provided with an overview of the firm's plan, an outline of what's coming next and be given a timeline for the audit.
Charleston City Council voted in December to hire CNA, which is reviewing the department’s traffic stops, citizen complaints, hiring practices, training and policing practices. The firm also plans to interview community leaders, citizens and officers of all ranks.
The audit has cost the city $158,556.
Denise Rodriguez, a senior research scientist with CNA, said the organization will come back to Charleston one or two more times after this week, but they aim to get most of their information gathering and public input done during this visit.
And hearing from the public will be essential.
"It's a core part of the project itself," Rodriguez said. "The community is key. The changes cannot be sustainable if the community isn't part of the process."
CNA got its start during World War II as the Center for Naval Analyses after military officials sought help from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in addressing the German U-boat threat, Rodriguez said.
In the last 20 years, CNA has expanded its field of work to include work outside of the military sector, including assisting law enforcement agencies with a variety of issues.
CNA has assisted law enforcement agencies from Las Vegas, Nevada to Fayetteville, N.C. in reform efforts during recent years.
Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds told The Post and Courier he hopes residents from all walks of life and areas of the city will attend the meetings.
Police will not be present at the meetings, the chief said, because officials want to create an environment where residents can feel free to speak their minds.
"We are genuinely interested in becomming a better police department," Reynolds said. "This is the city's police department (and) this is an opportunity for the community to provide input with an objective auditor."
If you are interested in providing input to the Charleston police racial bias audit, meetings will be held at the following locations:
- Bibleway Baptist Church, 2019 Savage Road in West Ashley, from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26.
- St. James Presbyterian Church, 1314 Secessionville Road on James Island, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27.
- Burke High School, 244 President St. in downtown Charleston, from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, March 28.
- St. Julian Devine Community Center, 1 Cooper St. in downtown Charleston, from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, March 29.
Those who cannot attend a meeting, or prefer to submit comments over the phone or via email are encouraged to contact CNA at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a phone interview or submit written comments.