North Charleston, South Carolina named its first African-American police chief, ABC News 4 reported. The appointment of Reginald Burgess signals a turning point nearly three years after many in the city’s Black community demanded change following the police shooting of Walter Scott.
“This is probably the single and most important step since the killing of Walter Scott,” the Rev. Nelson Rivers said, adding that the move was long overdue.
North Charleston was in turmoil after a viral video from a bystander’s phone showed ex-officer Michael Slager, who’s White, gunning down Scott, 50, in the back. Scott, who was unarmed, ran away after Slager pulled him over in an April 2015 traffic stop. A judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison for second-degree murder and obstruction of justice. Protesters rallied after the shooting against a culture of police brutality in North Charleston. Many of them said the shooting was not an isolated incident.
Chief Burgess, a North Charleston native, can help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said. “I think Reggie’s going to be able to help us to get beyond some barriers that we may have had in the past,” the mayor added.
Burgess, 52, also faces the task of lowering the city’s “unprecedented homicide rate,” the Charleston Courier reported. The city, which has a population of approximately 100,000 residents, recorded 35 homicides in 2017, according to the newspaper.
“My mother told me when I was in college, when I decided to come back home, if you come back home you have to make a difference here, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do for 29 years,” Burgess told ABC News 4.