By Claire Weber, ABC News 4
The Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM) held a public forum Thursday night to help people learn more about the Charleston Police Department’s recent improvements since a 2019 racial bias audit.
Researchers on the external review and assessment team (ERA) say while work has been done, it’s not over yet.
“You must engage with the community, listen to them, understand what their concerns are, help them feel like you’re doing something about it,” said Suzanne Hardie, a long-time volunteer for CAJM.
More than 200 people filled a room at St. Patrick Catholic Church eager to learn more about their local police.
In 2023, a research team assessed CPD’s implementation of recommendations that came from the 2019 racial bias audit. The audit found the agency shows severe racial disparities.
It revealed Black drivers are getting stopped, searched and sometimes arrested at much higher rates than white drivers.
“Every time we do community-oriented research, particularly on social problems, whether it’s homelessness, hunger, whatnot, we try to invite the community in, listen to what we’ve been able to find and then get their feedback next steps, questions. Especially on something as sensitive as policing and racial equity,” said Robert Kahle, the local evaluator of the ERA team.
The external research team found that CPD has completed more than 80% of the audit’s suggestions so far and created its recommendations for future success.
Now, the team is working with local groups to share its findings with the public.
“Hopefully, engage the community and the police department to work together on how they figure out what’s happening. What’s our input, what do we want to see done? What can they tell us that they can do to really make progress?” Hardie said.
Data was broken down, and people were able to ask the researchers questions.
Some say the packed room speaks volumes about its importance.
“I think it shows that everyone cares about each other, that we’re not as disunited as people might think, and it actually matters what everyone’s opinions, what their worth is. You can see that here,” said Denver Tanner.
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