North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers rebuffed a showdown meeting with the Charleston Area Justice Ministry, which wants him to come to its big April 18 assembly and address his department's controversial policy of making frequent minor traffic stops that CAJM says are discriminatory against blacks.
Fifty-one CAJM leaders met with Driggers last Tuesday, but the group's Facebook page says the chief "refused" its long-standing invitation to come to its annual Nehemiah Action Assembly, where local public officials say what their jurisdictions will do to eliminate racial bias that is flagged by the Ministry.
This is what CAJM said about its meeting with Driggers, which included Mayor R. Keith Summey and other governmental officials:
"We...laid out the data and research and asked Chief Driggers to publicly lead our community in addressing racial discrimination and community distrust by being at the Nehemiah Action on April 18th. He refused.
"It is unacceptable for a public servant to refuse to meet with 2,300 members of his community. We said that it was our expectation that he would reconsider and commit to attend and made clear our commitment to him to follow-up."
Driggers did attend a previous assembly that led to a substantial reduction in the arrests of students for disruptive behavior at North Charleston High and other city schools, CAJM says.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg has told CAJM he would come to the April 18 event. He is likely to report on what Charleston is prepared to do to earmark upwards of 25% of jobless workers for the city government's construction projects. CAJM is also targeting the City of Charleston for its practice of minor traffic stops, so that issue is likely to come up as well.
CAJM is on target to bring upwards of 2,300 people to the assembly, which is the keystone of its "direct-action" strategy to prompt local jurisdictions to end racial disparities that the Ministry says hit poor blacks the hardest. The assembly will be held at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, one of the 30 congregations that are members of CAJM and that represent 30,000 worshippers of all faiths.
On minor traffic stops, CAJM says North Charleston "leads the state." with over 67% of motorists who are pulled over being black, even though the black population of the city is only 45%. The stops are for infractions like a taillight that doesn't work.
Two days after Driggers said no to coming to CAJM's April 18 assembly, a leader of the group from North Charleston's Charity Missionary Baptist Church , Jamilah Frazier, told a session of the North Charleston City Council that the so-called "investigatory" traffic stops have no significant effect on lowering the rate of serious crime, and that they could be replaced by alternative "best practices" that other jurisdictions use to prevent felonies.
Frazier, addressing Police Chief Driggers' no to coming to her organization's assembly, said:
"We expect him to be there and we look forward to meeting with each of you to show the urgency of the problem and [that] best practices, if implemented, will build community trust in our police department."
North Charleston resident Walter L. Scott, a 50-year-old father of four, was shot to death by a North Charleston police officer on April 4, 2015, during an altercation that ensued after the officer stopped Scott for a defective taillight.
The case attracted international attention when a bystander's video of the event showed the officer, Michael T. Slager, 31 at the time, methodically firing a series of shots at unarmed Scott as he ran from the scene. "I was sickened by what I saw" in the video, Police Chief Driggers said at the time. Slager was subsequently indicted for murder and is awaiting trial.
The Scott family accepted a $6.5 million settlement from the City of North Charleston that ended all civil litigation.