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Feds, Community to Review North Charleston Police

Federal officials and community leaders in North Charleston, S.C., will work together on a review of that town’s police force in response to the shooting death of Walter Scott last year. The program is a collaborative reform effort and part of the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

“Being open to an independent and objective assessment, no matter the results, shows a level of leadership and commitment that we seek from our partners in collaborative reform. The leaders of North Charleston have shown that commitment,” said Noble Wray, COPS director of policing practices at a press conference to announce the program.

Scott was killed April 4, 2015, during a traffic stop by North Charleston officer Michael Slager before the policeman shot him five times as he ran away. Slager was arrested charged with homicide after the shooting. He was indicted federally in Scott’s death last week.

The 50-year-old motorist was pulled over for a broken tail light, but residents have long complained that interactions like those disproportionately target people of color.

Analysis undertaken by the collaboration will look at rates of traffic stops, police internal investigations, and recruitment efforts, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.  COPS will then make recommendations on improvements. North Charleston will be responsible for funding any changes or adjustments, which the Justice Department would monitor to see their progress.

Although North Charleston officials are hopeful about the program’s success, there are others in the community who remain skeptical.

“If Walter Scott didn’t get killed, North Charleston would be the same,” James Johnson, South Carolina president of the National Action Network told the Post and Courier. “Now that the whole world is looking at them, they want to change their image. But they just want to change their image on their own terms.”