CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina mayor and the police chief in a city where a former white police officer is charged with murder in the shooting of a black man are declining invitations to attend a rally about local police practices a year after the death.
The Post and Courier of Charleston reports about 2,000 people are expected at next Monday’s rally sponsored by the Charleston Area Justice Ministry.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey isn’t opposed to dialogue but he and Police Chief Eddie Driggers met with 50 members of the group last month in a session that became a rebuke of city officials, city spokesman Ryan Johnson said.
Former North Charleston officer Michael Slager awaits trial for murder in the shooting of Walter Scott, who was running from a traffic stop.
The Rev. Charles Heyward of St. James Presbyterian Church said the refusal by city leaders to attend the rally runs counter to the suggestion the city is working to improve community relations.
“Though they say they want to build trust and parity and transparency, their actions are very clear that they do not intend to do so,” Heyward said.
Johnson said the justice ministry’s “tactics and insular views are unfortunately unavailing.” He said going into the March 22 meeting, Summey hoped it would “result in a robust dialogue.”
But Johnson said “the end result was a complete rebuke of North Charleston public officials and chastising of the entire police department” and there is no indication next week’s meeting will be any different.
Driggers said his decision has nothing to do with the police department’s commitment to work on building community trust. Instead, he said, it is based on what he called the justice ministry’s “bullying tactics and their sheer disregard to treat folks with common decency.”
The group is calling for a reduction in the number of contact stops in which motorists are stopped but no citations written.
The newspaper reports that between 2010 and 2014, North Charleston Police stopped motorists about 146,000 times without writing citations, the most in the state. In a city where the population is 47 percent black, 65 percent of those stopped were black.