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North Charleston police racial bias audit finds racial disparities in early report

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 5:59 PM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A preliminary report is giving a closer look at racial disparities in the North Charleston Police Department’s practices.

CNA, a non-profit research organization, has been assessing the police department’s policies and procedures since the group was hired to conduct a racial bias audit.

After months of talking to the community and reviewing data, the group reported findings in six focus areas: law enforcement operations, community-oriented policing practices, complaints, recruitment/hiring/promotions, training, and oversight/ accountability.

“We did identify racially disparate outcomes for a number of measures of law enforcement activities in the city of north Charleston,” said CNA Senior Research Scientist Zoe Thorkildsen. “We also heard a lot from the community about concerns about racial disparities in their interactions with the police department.”

In the report, a lot of the disparities were shown in the department’s arrest data, traffic stops, and use of force. The data shows that Black people are overrepresented in these outcomes in compared to their presence in the city’s population.

On Wednesday, the group shared the results of the preliminary report with members of the community. Some of them said they were not surprised to hear about the findings.

“I have been pulled over by police more times than I can count so that all resonated with me, the findings all resonated with me, and I think it resonates with the rest of the community as well, that this is not new, and this is something that needs to be resolved,” North Charleston resident Raynique Syas said.

During the meeting, a few people expressed that they felt there was no bias in the police department and they felt like the department was doing the right thing. The report also showed positive oversight and things the department is doing well.

For example, members of the community have expressed high confidence in North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess and his ability to engage with the public. The chief has responded to some of these findings in a video where he says he is looking forward to continue working with CNA.

“CNA’s assessment concludes that strengthening relationships will take time, however the community and the department are willing to work towards that common goal,” Burgess said. “We are progressing, involved, and cognizant. Public safety and fairness to all are our top priorities. "

Public comment for this preliminary report will remain open for at least a month. People can send e-mail their comments to justicecenter@cna.org.

The research group said they are working with the city to identify some more chances for the public to provide input in person. There will be a community presentation on July 22 from 6-8 p.m. at the Perry Webb Community Center, 3200 Appleton Ave.

To see the full preliminary report, click here.

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