Without connection to community, police substation won't work
By D.R.E. James
To a novice who’s never really cooked much in a kitchen, water would seem like the logical thing to extinguish that grease fire, but in reality all it does is produce roaring flames and create a bigger catastrophe.
Donald Cameron, CEO of theHousing Authority of the City of Charleston,is either extremely naïve, or he’s trying to bamboozle us. It appears Mr. Cameron is in cahoots withCharleston Police Chief Luther Reynoldsto use two units in theGadsden Green Homesas a Charleston Police substation, even though there’s a police department not even a mile away on Lockwood Drive. I hate to rain on anybody’s parade but, in these times, we don’t have the luxury of being blindly optimistic. Despite desperately wanting the police department do the right thing, it hasn’t progressed much since the days when priorities were capturing and punishing runaway slaves.
Why would theCharleston Police Departmentwait until a136-page Racial Bias Auditto engage with the community or worry about protecting and serving black Charlestonians? This substation has absolutely nothing to do with any of that. They’ve already beefed up police presence downtown to pacify the pearl-clutchers, and this is just the next phase. If Chief Reynolds was half as smart as I thought he was, he would realize over-policing is asinine. Bronx U.S. Representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beautifully articulates it like this: “Communities have lower crime rates, not because they have more police, but because they have the resources to support a healthy society in a way that reduces crime.”
Many in Charleston want to see neighborhoods like the Wraggborough Homes,Meeting Street Manor,Gadsden Green and others demolished. In fact, In a2016 Op-Ed, Post and Courier contributor Steve Bailey boldly suggested they take a wrecking ball to ALL the “antiquated” public housing in Charleston,knowing full well that if that wrecking ball swings, so will the exodus of more and more black people from Charleston — and, the ugly truth is, that’s what a lot of people prefer. But since that wrecking ball isn’t swinging anytime soon, initiatives like this will ensue.
I write with authority because I was a resident at 9A Norman Street and the distrust and disdain for the police is intense; their presence is not wanted.
Before I could do Algebra, knew how many rings existed around Saturn, or what the Capital of Vermont was, I learned that if you were Black, particularly a black male, a war existed outside our home. Going to school, picking our children up from daycare, driving to and from work, or heading to the grocery store for toilet paper and butter, we had a target on our back and the enemy was the police. This deep-rooted ideology is shared by many black men, not just me. Knowing this, I understand why adding more police to a neighborhood like “Back da Green” is akin to throwing water on a grease fire.
To a novice who’s never really cooked much in a kitchen, water would seem like the logical thing to use to extinguish that grease fire, but in reality all it does is produce roaring flames and create a bigger catastrophe. People like the newly electedDistrict Three Councilmember Jason Sakranbelieve this is a good idea, but the problem is they’ve never had to put out that grease fire. They’ve never walked in the shoes of someone who lives there. They’ve never been stopped, frisked, or brutalized by the police in their own neighborhood. I write with authority because I was a resident at 9A Norman Street and the distrust and disdain for the police is intense; their presence is not wanted.
Don’t expect these “outreach officers” to be jumping Double Dutch or throwing footballs in the street with the children. And please realize that even the free lunches they gave away were nothing more than propaganda; just hollow goodwill. This substation will not work with white, out-of-touch officers who can clock out after their shift and remove themselves from the equation. For this to work, officers must be PART of the equation. They need to be graduates of Burke High School from the community, or someone who’s Grannie or cousin lives in the neighborhood. They need genuine ties with cultural credentials residents can relate to and trust who see them as daughters, uncles and fathers — not thugs, gangsters and criminals.