One year after the brutal police-shooting death of unarmed Walter Scott, North Charleston residents are disappointed by government officials’ limited response to requests for a thorough investigation of policing practices. (“Community activists: Calls for reform fell on deaf ears after Walter Scott shooting,” April 2).
Mayor Keith Summey has asked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS) to help improve community-police relations.
But its federal authority is limited to providing mediation, facilitation and training services to communities on how to resolve conflicts. CRS does not have the power to investigate police policies and practices to determine whether the city’s police department has engaged in a “pattern or practice” of unlawful policing.
That is why last summer the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc., (LDF) and South Carolina leaders asked the U.S. attorney general to open a pattern or practice probe of the city’s police department. LDF’s preliminary investigation has uncovered evidence of police use of force against residents, including students.
And while police traffic stops in North Charleston have decreased, racial disparities persist, with African Americans being stopped at higher rates than white residents. A comprehensive federal investigation of policing practices would reveal and address the reasons for these disparities.
We urge city leaders to join our request for a federal probe into the city’s policing practices.
Deputy Director of Policy
Senior Counsel, NAACP
Legal Defense and Educational Fund
I Street NW