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Racial Bias Audit of the Charleston, South Carolina, Police Department

Denise RodriguezKeri RichardsonZoë ThorkildsenRodney MonroeHarold MedlockStephen Rickman
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In the mid-1800s, more than 40 percent of all slaves arriving in the US entered through Charleston, South Carolina. The city’s history and its role in the slave trade continue to influence the city and its community—most apparently in the 2015 massacre at Mother Emanuel Church. This tragedy served as an example to the nation of how a community can come together to work toward acknowledging and addressing racial tensions and ultimately achieve healing and forgiveness. The Charleston City Council further acknowledged this movement on June 19, 2018, when it issued a two-page resolution as an apology for its role in the slave trade and as a statement toward racial reconciliation. To advance such efforts, in June 2019 the city created a Diversity, Racial Reconciliation and Tolerance manager position. 

Today, Charleston’s rich history provides context regarding the culture and perspectives of the local community and its relationship with the police. The community's efforts to address systemic racial bias in policing since the early mid-twentieth century provide historical context to the depth of the issues and challenges in developing and maintaining strong relationships between the local law enforcement in the Charleston area and the community. The Charleston Police Department (CPD), which employs 458 sworn police officers and 117 civilians and serves a population of more than 136,000, is increasingly becoming an active community partner in conversations and efforts to address the city’s past and present challenges surrounding race. 

Efforts to strengthen police-community relationships have been at the forefront of the city’s priorities. The Illumination Project, established in late 2015, “created a unique, community-wide experience for both citizens and police with the purpose of further improving their relationship, grounded in trust and legitimacy.”  The Illumination Project identified many strategies to improve police-community relationships, including the establishment of the Citizen Police Advisory Council. Although these efforts were important steps in strengthening relationships between police and community stakeholders, continued concern about potential racial bias, also brought forth during a Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM) Nehemiah Call to Action Assembly in 2016, led the City Council to vote in favor of an independent audit of the CPD in November of 2017. Further adding to this urgency were the findings from the College of Charleston’s report, The State of Racial Disparities in Charleston County, South Carolina 2000-2015, which noted racial disparities and the linkage to structural racism and economic inequality. The call for an audit also stemmed from growing interest among city officials and the community to address concerns about racial bias in the CPD’s procedures and practices. Subsequently, the City Council, city officials, and community stakeholders worked together to develop a request for proposals, review the proposals, and select an independent auditor. 

In January 2019, the City of Charleston, through a competitive bid, selected the CNA Institute for Public Research (CNA) to conduct a racial bias audit of the CPD.

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE AUDIT

CNA’s audit was designed to accomplish the following:

  • Assess, monitor, and assist the CPD, in concert with the community, in uncovering any aspects of implicit bias or systemic and individual racial bias.
  • Assess the effect of enforcement operations on historically marginalized and discriminatedagainst populations, particularly those in the African-American community.
  • Provide recommendations for reforms that improve community-oriented policing practices, transparency, professionalism, accountability, community inclusion, fairness, effectiveness, and public trust, taking into account national best practices and community expectations.
  • Engage the community to understand both the experiences and the expectations of interactions with CPD.
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Details

  • Pages: 136
  • Document Number: IRM-2019-U-022344-Final
  • Publication Date: 11/1/2019
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