The scars left on the community by the April 4 shooting death of Walter Scott by a North Charleston police officer won’t go away any time soon.
Mr. Scott’s family and friends will continue to mourn for him, and his name will be mentioned — along with Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo., and Freddie Gray of Baltimore — whenever there is a conversation about police behavior.
But while it has shaken the community’s confidence in law enforcement, the response by North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and other city officials has limited the damage that might have occurred.
Toward that commendable effort, Mr. Summey and his council should engage in a discussion about how citizens can be more effectively involved with law enforcement issues in the future.
Already the city has made moves that have bolstered its credibility. Officer Michael Slager, the shooter, was fired and charged with murder. And the city has ordered body cameras for all officers to wear on duty.
Community activists also want the city to allow residents more involvement in police oversight.
Mayor Summey, however, isn’t willing to approve the creation of a board with subpoena powers, as recommended by those activists. A city spokesman said Mr. Summey has no authority to provide subpoena powers to an appointed board, adding that the Legislature would have to authorize such a move.
There are other issues to consider, such as the authority of such a body to compel testimony of those outside of its jurisdiction. A citizens committee could, however, serve as a sounding board for the community regarding complaints about police, and make recommendations to the county grand jury or the solicitor for further review, as warranted.
The North Charleston Police Department has already demonstrated its interest in establishing better communication with residents. In 2007, then Chief John Zumalt engaged Chuck Wexler to advise him about improving relations between police and the community. Mr. Wexler, a former Boston police official, heads the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington.
A citizens advisory committee created as part of that effort already has done commendable work on community-police issues. Charleston County School Board Chairman Cindy Bohn Coats, who served on that committee, said its scope could be expanded to accommodate a new oversight function.
Certainly North Charleston could hire Mr. Wexler — or another consultant — to gather information about ways that other cities handle outside oversight and determine which, if any, could work in North Charleston.
More troublesome is the demand by some activists that Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson recuse herself from the Walter Scott case. They contend that she hasn’t been tough enough when prosecuting police officers.
Ms. Wilson is an elected official, chosen because voters have confidence in her ability to do her job fairly and successfully.
Some critics have suggested that she should have probed deeper into the death of Denzell Curnell in Charleston. She did not pursue a case against the officer who was present when Mr. Curnell was shot, based on a SLED investigation, which indicated that Mr. Curnell’s wound was self-inflicted.
Ms. Wilson has neither shied away from prosecuting law enforcement officers nor hesitated to recuse herself when she felt it was appropriate — as when Sheriff Al Cannon was charged with assault.
Among the cases she has handled as prosecutor was former Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt’s charges of driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident and failure to stop for police.
By their vote, citizens said they are comfortable that Ms. Wilson knows when to recuse herself and when to serve as prosecutor in a case. The prosecutor’s authority should not be arbitrarily restricted, absent a compelling reason.
Chief Justice Jean Toal has appointed Third Circuit Judge Clifton Newman, who is black, to oversee the case from start to finish. He doesn’t routinely hear North Charleston police cases. And Ms. Wilson has assured the community that she will keep it apprised of developments in the case.
Mr. Slager’s trial will likely be emotionally charged. It is important that it is handled by seasoned professionals who can leave the community satisfied in the end that the courts got it right.
As prosecutor, Ms. Wilson fits the bill.