CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Charleston leaders discussed on Tuesday how to implement recommendations from a racial bias audit done last year, and responded to community concerns on a variety of issues.
Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds didn’t shy away from answering some hard questions on everything from racial equity to COVID-19. A large topic of conversation was the impact of George Floyd’s death on the Charleston Police Department.
Chief Reynolds says it’s never been a harder time to be a police officer:
“I have talked to cops who are completely emotionally broken.”Chief Luther Reynolds
The conversation focused heavily on the protests, and riots, with community members criticizing law enforcement’s response:
“What took place after the protests was an act that violated the rights of residents of the Eastside community. Law enforcement agencies descended on a predominantly black neighborhood, blocked off streets with military vehicles, ordered citizens to go inside of their homes- despite the fact that the curfew was poorly advertised and hastily put into place- and threw tear-gas canisters into groups of people that included children and elders.”Community member
Chief Reynolds says the community’s reaction has made more clear than ever the disparities that exist in Charleston:
“There is a big gap between the haves and the have nots. And it’s right along race line.”Chief Luther Reynolds
Chief Reynolds says it’s going to take more than conversations to move forward:
“We have talked a lot, but are we actually having a meaningful work product.”Chief Luther Reynolds
Now, as police move towards change, Chief Reynolds says the importance of the profession is as evident as ever:
“I don’t think there is a more important time to be a police officer, I don’t think we could ever be more relevant, more impactful, or have the ability to make [more of] a difference.”Chief Luther Reynolds
The committee will be putting together small focus groups to highlight certain topics they wish to be improved, like disparities in traffic stops, and those will be meeting in the near future.