Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano joined last week’s ACLU At Liberty podcast, discussing what she’s learned in her career in law enforcement and her vision of a more accountable and responsive department.
The conversation ranged from opportunities to change law enforcement systems in the wake of the death of George Floyd, to ending the city’s cooperation with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the agency’s overreach in the community during the time it was present.
“It has not made our community safer,” she said on the podcast regarding the cooperation with ICE. “when people in these [immigrant] communities are victimized, they don’t report that victimization to police because they’re scared. It just allows the criminal element to continue to victimize the communities.”
Graziano ended the 287(g) program on her first day in office, something she said during the podcast was the right thing to do. “Serving our communities means serving all of the community, not just the ones that look like you,” she said.
Part of the reason for the termination was ICE’s overreach in the city, she said. Graziano details one of the interactions she had with an ICE official in which they said the agency would ramp up enforcement if she refused to cooperate with its efforts.
“That’s why it was really important for me on day one to make a statement, because I have never in my life seen professionals act in a manner such as that,” she said on the podcast. “If they’re doing it to me as an elected official in a professional community, I can only imagine what they’re doing to my community when I’m not there.”
The conversation shifted at times to discussing the nature and role of law enforcement as it pertains to the racial reckoning that many felt last summer. She said she had always been an advocate for transparency and accountability in law enforcement, and the events that transpired only served to amplify those feelings.
“When that incident with Mr. Floyd happened, that didn’t change my life. That just made me more motivated and gave me a bigger voice,” Graziano said on the podcast. “Not only was I saying what everyone was saying, but I’d been saying it. I wasn’t saying it alone anymore.”
The full podcast episode is available for public listening for free online at aclu.org.