Thursday, July 12, 2018

City committee narrows list of firms for racial bias study of Charleston Police Department

Three firms will be invited to present in Charleston next month

Posted by Adam Manno on Thu, Jul 12, 2018 at 5:36 PM

click to enlarge From L-R: Charleston city lawyer Susan Herdina, assistant to the mayor Mike Whack, and traffic and transportation director Keith Benjamin at a April 4, 2018 meeting to draft a scope of work for a firm to audit the Charleston Police Department for racial bias. - ADAM MANNO
  • Adam Manno
  • From L-R: Charleston city lawyer Susan Herdina, assistant to the mayor Mike Whack, and traffic and transportation director Keith Benjamin at a April 4, 2018 meeting to draft a scope of work for a firm to audit the Charleston Police Department for racial bias.
Charleston's police audit committee narrowed down the list of firms who submitted bids to conduct a racial bias study of the Charleston Police Department from seven to three Wednesday afternoon.

The three chosen firms are Virginia-based CNA, California-based OIR Group, and North Carolina-based RTI International.
Wednesday's 11 a.m. meeting included close to two hours of discussion about the various proposals in closed door, executive session.

Before the public was kicked out, City Council member and Public Safety Committee chairman Peter Shahid introduced the new members of the committee, two police employees who were added in an effort to diversify the body.

"The material here is not exactly light reading material," he said. "So hopefully everybody here had the opportunity to catch up."

The three vendors on the short list will be invited to Charleston for presentations some time next month, according to city spokesperson Chloe Field. The 15-member committee will ultimately recommend one firm to City Council, which has the final say on what company is chosen.
Members of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry, a social justice advocacy group comprised of 27 interfaith congregations, were satisfied with the selection process thus far. The group wrote the majority of the scope of work used by the city in their request for proposal.

"Six out of the seven companies are, I think, pretty qualified," said CAJM organizer Treva Williams. "There’s just been a lot of hours in executive session."

CAJM members said they were also concerned about RTI International's "veil of darkness" method, which tests police bias during daylight hours, when it is assumed that officers can better see the race of a driver, making them more likely to engage in bias.

"I think that's what they say, but I think it ignores a lot of other factors," said CAJM member Amy Horwitz.

"You can use that method all day, and if you’re not looking at how policing is done and how police officers interact with [certain] neighborhoods, there’s just a lot of questions," Williams added. "Not to mention, there’s a really strong correlation between the types of cars driven and the race of drivers, which is a problem with that method."

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