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Aiken NAACP calls for changes in law enforcement

Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 7:19 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor put civil rights back into national headlines, but the fight for equality was there long before.

"Conversation and dialogue are so vital and important, particularly in this age where information and misinformation flow so quickly," Eugene White with the Aiken County NAACP said.

Aiken's NAACP chapter wrote up a list of demands. Things like establishing a citizen's review board for all law enforcement agencies in the county, reviewing the use of force policies, calling for the ban of no-knock warrants, and "banning the box" that asks about criminal history in employment applications.

"Our list of demands is really just a beginning of a very long conversation that needs to be had," White said.

Last month, the city of Aiken unanimously passed a "ban the box" ordinance, meaning people won't have to disclose criminal history until the final stages of the employment application process.

South Carolina's Supreme Court temporarily banned no-knock warrants.

"You have to celebrate the small victories because it is certainly not a sprint. It is going to be a long, hot, and sweaty marathon," White said.

The Aiken County Department of Public Safety says chokeholds have never been a part of their procedures. But the death of George Floyd compelled them to take a look at some of their other policies.

"The vascular neck restraint is designed to limit the flow of blood to the person's brain, and therefore induce unconsciousness," Lt. Jake Mahoney with Aiken DPS said. "We have limited the use of that technique to only a deadly force situation.

They’ve also tightened up their policy about officer-to-officer intervention.

"We've gone so far now as to include in our policy that it's an officer responsibility to intervene if they see a gross misconduct," Mahoney said.

For the Aiken NAACP, it starts with a conversation.

"It's a great opportunity to reassess the community," White said.

And ends with systemic changes in policy -- not just promises.

White says their next step is to meet with Aiken DPS about their citizen’s review board policies. Then, they say, they’ll move on to other law enforcement agencies in the county.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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