The NAACP held a town hall meeting in downtown Charleston Thursday night to discuss the racial profiling evident in a recent ACLU report. The ACLU report states that in South Carolina, African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to face a marijuana charge than a white person, despite similar usage numbers.
The meeting was contentious at times as citizens and NAACP board members insist racial profiling very much exists. "While we know that it may not be intentional, it may not have been pre-planned, it may not even be condoned, racial profiling happens, and it happens far too often in our community," said Dot Scott, President of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP.
However, law enforcement on hand said while bias is a part of human nature, racial profiling is not allowed in the department. Chief Greg Mullen of Charleston Police Department stressed, "We are not targeting any specific race for possession charges. We are not targeting any specific community for marijuana possession charges."
Sheriff Al Cannon of Charleston County also in attendance. Sheriff Cannon agreed with Chief Mullen, but admits the numbers in the report look bad. "This has us looking at what we do, it has us looking at how we train, it has us looking at how we monitor."
Both Sheriff Cannon and Chief Mullen detailed their hiring and vetting processes of potential law enforcement. They also stressed that any citizens with issues need to report the officer in question, so that they can look into the matter.
Over a dozen citizens spoke out at the meeting. Cheryl Jones taking the time to address the many problems she has encountered in her West Ashley neighborhood. "Racial profiling does exist. and I don't like when people who are not like me, say it doesn't exist."
Jones also went on to ask the most important question, "How can we fix this? What is the next step? What can we do as citizens and officers? How are we going to come together and end the racial profiling and stop the stereotyping of neighborhoods?"