[image-1]The Charleston branch of the NAACP has thrown its support behind the city’s Illumination Project, a one-year plan to engage citizens and community leaders to develop new police procedures and strategies. As a part of this project, the local NAACP will be cosponsoring a community listening session on Wed. April 13 at 6:30 p.m.

Scheduled to take place at ILA Hall on Morrison Drive, the meeting will allow citizens and members of law enforcement to engage in a mediated discussion about public safety.

“We are usually the first point of contact or at least the default point of contact when some folks in the community have problems, so that means it is very important for us to be able to go to our law enforcement or chief or representative and be able to communicate with them in a way that will get the issue or the problem over to them as we see it,” said Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP. “Oftentimes in the past, we have not seen it the same way. The NAACP and the police department haven’t always and, for the most part, haven’t been on the same page. That’s why I’m here — so we can work on that.”

The city’s Illumination Project was launched last September to gain input from the community to find long-term solutions to strengthening the public perception of police. Since launching the initiative, the Charleston Police Department has participated in a series of listening sessions to hear suggestions and concerns from citizens. The information gathered from these meetings will be collected and analyzed by researchers at the College of Charleston’s Joseph P. Riley Jr. Center for Livable Communities, but Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen says a few changes have already been put in place based on public input.

“We’ve heard a lot about getting more information out. We are now putting our policies online. We’ve done that as a result of what we’ve heard in the community,” said Mullen. “We’ve also started what we’re calling Policing 101, which is a condensed educational process. We’ve heard loud and clear that the community needs to know more about what the police do, what are our procedures, how do we respond to certain things.”

The Charleston Police Department and community members are also planning to hold a communications seminar near the end of April that will discuss how officers interact with individuals as well as the history of specific cultures and neighborhoods to educate officers on what can be done to minimize conflict as much as possible. Citizens can currently register for upcoming community listening sessions online.

“There’s no more fundamental function of our city government than public safety and our police department,” said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg. “So it is critical that we have the communication, the trust, build the relationships, build the partnerships, so that we protect our citizens and serve as guardians for all our citizens.”

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