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LDF Finds Disturbing Racial Disparities in North Charleston PD’s Complaint Process

7/13/17

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Finds Disturbing Racial Disparities in North Charleston Police Department’s Complaint Process

LDF and Partners Send Letter to Justice Department Urging Completion and Release of NCPD Assessment   

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) today issued the findings of a comprehensive review of citizen complaint reports released by the North Charleston, South Carolina, Police Department (NCPD).  After analyzing hundreds of pages of documents filed with the NCPD from 2006 through 2016, LDF found both that African Americans were more likely to file complaints against officers than their White counterparts, and complaints filed by African Americans were sustained at a much lower rate.  LDF also found that the NCPD conducts inadequate investigations in response to citizen complaints, as complaint reports are often missing critical information and rarely note whether disciplinary actions were taken against offending officers.  In addition to releasing the report, LDF and our North Charleston partners also sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office (COPS Office) urging the agency to complete and release its comprehensive and independent assessment of the NCPD’s policies and practices that it began in May of last year.

“Residents of North Charleston have urged city officials to change policing practices for years,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF.  “Our report analyzing citizen complaints against the NCPD confirms the views of residents of color that they are disproportionately mistreated by police, yet their complaints are not adequately documented or addressed.  These disturbing findings underscore the need for the long overdue COPS Office comprehensive review of the police department’s policies and practices, as well as their recommendations for reform.  Implementing and institutionalizing reform is no easy task, but the alternative – the maintenance of the status quo – is simply unacceptable.” 

LDF’s report found that racial disparities were persistent and highly pronounced in the percentage, rate, and outcomes of citizen complaints filed against NCPD officers.  Specifically, African Americans filed nearly twice as many complaints as their White counterparts.  Complaints filed by African Americans were sustained only 31 percent of the time as opposed to complaints filed by Whites, which were sustained 50 percent of the time.  This racial disparity was particularly pronounced in use-of-force complaints, where the NCPD sustained complaints filed by White residents at seven times the rate at which they sustained complaints filed by African Americans.

The LDF report concludes with four specific recommendations:

  1. The COPS Office, which began an independent review of the NCPD over a year ago in May 2016, should consider the findings in LDF’s report and conduct a more expansive investigation of civilian complaints as it completes its long-awaited assessment.
  2. NCPD leadership, including officers in supervisory positions, should periodically conduct audits of complaints to identify officers with recurring issues, and to monitor and address racial disparities in complaint reporting and outcomes.
  3. The NCPD should make complaint reports and analysis more transparent and accessible, and ensure an adequate process for investigating, reviewing, and documenting complaints.
  4. NCPD personnel who record, register, control, and investigate complaints should undergo anti-bias training to mitigate the prevalence of racial bias throughout the process.

In response to LDF’s report and the delayed release of the COPS Office assessment, North Charleston leaders offered the following comments:

“It is ridiculous that Black people are still dealing with these same kinds of issues in 2017,” said Shaundra Scott, Executive Director of the ACLU of South Carolina.  “Our law enforcement should be here to protect and serve the community, not cause fear, mistrust, racial profiling, and discrimination.”

“For the Justice Department to delay the release of the assessment and fail public trust is to perpetuate the next generation of injustice,” said Rev. Charles Heyward, Co-President of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry. 

“Unfortunately, in the 21st Century we have a new form of Jim Crow,” said Louis Smith, Executive Director of The Community Resource Center. “It is time for the North Charleston Police Department to stop racially profiling and harassing the majority of the City’s citizens. This practice needs to stop, and it needs to stop now!”

“We have for over a lifetime worked for the betterment of all mankind though policies, education, and economics,” said Edward Bryant III, President of the North Charleston, South Carolina Branch of the NAACP.  “For decades, we have fought to eliminate racially discriminatory policing practices of the North Charleston Police Department.  We continue to present evidence that racial disparities exist and that citizens of color are systemically treated differently by police.  It is time for our city leaders to address this problem. The time is now.”

LDF and its local partners are deeply committed to bringing meaningful reform in North Charleston.

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Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.