North Charleston, S.C., where a fatal police shooting has riveted the nation this week, has used aggressive law enforcement tactics in a campaign that began as an effort to rid the city of a label as one of the nation’s most dangerous in 2007, the New York Times reports. The mostly white police force has made frequent stops of drivers and pedestrians for minor violations and increased police presence in high-crime, mostly black areas. The violent crime rate has decreased.
Many local residents say the strategy came at a high cost and that it provides a disturbing context to the police shooting last weekend, in which a white police officer was shown on a bystander's video shooting and killing an unarmed black man after he fled from a traffic stop for a broken taillight. North Charleston saw an era of stepped-up enforcement under former Police Chief Jon Zumalt, and an effort to improve relations between the police and residents under the current chief, Eddie Driggers. Black residents, merchants and former residents said police officers have been harassing and racially profiling African Americans in North Charleston for years. They accused officers of assaulting them with Tasers for no reason and of using aggressive tactics after stopping them or pulling them over for minor offenses. City officials deny allegations of widespread police misconduct.