By Anna Harris, WCSC

The Charleston Police Department wants to expand an existing program that targets traffic, property and violent crime with the help of a proposed grant.

It’s called the Smart Policing Initiative which has already had its foundation laid out within the department. But with the help of an $800,000 grant, they’re hoping to expand it.

The funds come in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Dr. Jillian Eidson, director of procedural justice and research for the Charleston Police Department, says they’ve already had one person from BJA come in and train staff and officers on community problem-oriented policing. With this money, it can be a more consistent training experience.

Violent, property and traffic crimes are just three of the target areas the department is hoping to improve. Eidson says this can work by training more staff, developing creative ways to address problems and collecting data.

“We want to evaluate whether it works or not,” Eidson said. “We’d like to know the efforts that we are taking, in regard to this grant, actually, you know, making citizens safer, making them feel safer and are they reducing crime.”

Eidson says this grant’s intention isn’t necessarily for the day-to-day policing Charleston residents see on the streets. It’s for the long-term, data-driven work that goes into keeping track of the hotspots of crime throughout the city.

In addition, the nonprofit Charleston Area Justice Ministry says they hope one more initiative is included: targeting racial bias. The group says they’ve been working with the department for some time now to help reduce this issue.

CAJM Policing Committee Co-Chair Suzanne Hardie says she hopes it’s a domino effect.

“There are disparities, really, everywhere,” Hardie said. “So, as you penetrate those areas and understand the solving, how those problems are solved better, it’s likely it will impact racial bias.”

Eidson says one of their broader efforts is to make sure all of their tactics are equitable.

“As part of the data collection process, one of the things we’ll be looking at is if there are differential impacts of the problems on specific groups,” Eidson said. “So, it’s certainly something we will be paying attention to to make sure that whatever we decide to implement affects members of the community equally.”

Hardie says she’s eager to see the change.

“The idea is to focus on important, serious crimes and as you bring those down, it’s good for the whole community and it will impact disparities,” Hardie said. “Or if it doesn’t, then there’s something that’s true there… Because it’s in all our interest to have us safe, to have them safe, for the whole community to be safe.”

Eidson was asked why the Charleston community should care about them getting this grant.

“The Charleston Police Department is an agency that’s dedicated to evidence-based practice and making decisions based on data and making sure that everything that we do here is best practice,” Eidson said. “And so, this is another demonstration of that to the community and the citizens. That we want to be the best agency possible, use the best tactics and techniques and we’re willing to go after grant money and innovate to make that happen.”

Charleston City Council will consider the grant for approval at Tuesday’s meeting at 5 p.m.

If council approves the grant, the department says they will begin using the money immediately after they receive it.

View the original story here.