The Charleston Area Justice Ministry seeks an independent police audit by a firm better qualified than Novak, the consulting firm that will be assessing the performance of all city departments. Council member James Lewis Jr. proposed getting council’s approval for a separate RFP for a racial bias audit.
After having argued that Novak was qualified to audit police for racial bias, the mayor then suggested that Novak hire another firm. He stated anyone could participate in defining the scope of the audit, but clarified, after Lewis’s resolution failed 5-7, that “it’s not really necessary” that council vote on the audit’s scope or the subcontracted firm.
Before the June 20 vote, the mayor spoke for 35 minutes, claiming that requests for an audit “insulted” Charleston police, he decried the way he had “been treated” by CAJM, calling its actions “improper” and “disrespectful.”
Was it proper to speak 35 minutes before allowing discussion to begin, and to suggest no amendments to Lewis’ proposal? Was it respectful to ignore council members’ earlier accounts of unfair treatment by police?
That same day, City Hall released a “Fact Sheet” challenging my June 19 op-ed supporting Lewis’ proposal. However, “sources” cited by City Hall disprove nothing I wrote — e.g., the city’s original RFP never uses the word “race,” Novak’s proposal never used the term “racial bias.”
The mayor’s sources don’t disprove council members’ May 23 assertions that they didn’t realize a racial bias component was included (“buried”) in a 132-page document. And although the “Fact Sheet” says published policy “makes clear” that the committee selecting Novak didn’t need a council member, the document cited actually suggests otherwise.
The mayor’s changing positions have been united by one principle: Whatever CAJM endorses, he opposes. Now we’ll be paying an underqualified contractor to pay a subcontractor for an audit whose scope council won’t vet.
Perhaps discrediting an interfaith, interracial group of citizens is more important than carefully examining police practices that have continued Charleston’s long history of racism.