CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Following the third day of protests in the Holy City, some people living in the area are now reacting to how the police department handled certain situations from over the weekend.
Charleston Police Department Chief Luther Reynolds said his department’s racial bias audit played a role in his department’s response, noting that since the audit came out he’s made several changes to his department. The first and in his opinion, the most beneficial, is how the department is now investing in the right people to hire.
Some of the other changes include accountability, and there is now a new change in command and promotions. But also, that Charleston Police Department is investing heavily in their training and making sure that staff is fully equipped.
Reynolds said he’s excited about the changes and that they manifested as his department handled the violence from over the weekend. He said it’s also changed his day-to-day contacts.
“When we talk about public trust, public engagement, solving problems, community policing… That’s done with each officer, every day, one contact at a time, solving one problem at a time. Working closely with our community members,” said Chief Reynolds.
Reynolds said he’s working to make his department a model agency but acknowledges there’s always room for improvement and that his department is a learning organization.
Reynolds also noted that taking criticism is part of his job. Following the weekend, several people have made comments about the way the Charleston Police Department handled the situations. Some argue the way CPD handled the protests was great, but others argue officers should have handled things differently when things turned violent.
At times, officers used tear gas to disperse violent crowds Saturday night. A key element in situations as described is transparency. Chief Reynolds said he instructed all of his officers to have their body cameras on and activated, but that he is going to only release footage if he feels its necessary.
“We’ll look at that on a case-by-case basis,” Reynolds said. “There was a whole lot of things that went on this weekend where we deployed gas, and if I feel it’s important to release that, I look at that and consider that.”
Other big cities across the county have decided to release that footage to show both sides of the situations. Chief Reynolds said what happens in other agencies will not inform his policies.