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Few details on alleged racial claims at CCSO

Little known progress has been made in the confirmation that Al Sharpton is coming to Colleton County to address concerns of racial bias since the allegations were first made at a Colleton County Council meeting last week.

In that Tuesday meeting, longtime Councilman Evon Robinson made a surprising statement that he is concerned about the employment and termination of black law enforcement officers within the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office. Reading from a letter, Robinson went on to further say that he is also concerned of a racial bias against blacks within the department, and that several people who consider themselves to be leaders of the African American community shared these concerns with him. Robinson also said in his letter that these same members – stated as Rev. Leon Maxwell and Rev. Jack Lewis, Jr. - had attempted to meet with Sheriff R. Andy Strickland about their concerns, but “to no avail.”

Still reading from his letter, Robinson said the National Action Network would be called in to address these same concerns since the Colleton County chapter of the NAACP was not objective: the interim president of the local NAACP is an employee of the sheriff’s office. Lewis is the former president of that chapter, until he stepped down from office more than a month ago.

Strickland chose to not respond to individual media requests concerning this matter, instead issuing a blanket statement on the matter. Strickland says he attempted to investigate Robinson’s claims, but says that Robinson would not give him any more detailed information on the allegations or any specific incidents regarding those allegations.

“During open session this week, Councilman Robinson read a prepared statement regarding concerns from the African-American community,” Strickland wrote in a prepared statement. “Councilman Robinson did not contact me regarding these concerns prior to the council meeting. I asked for some time to respond to the prepared statement so that I could investigate these allegations. Following the meeting, I spoke with Councilman Robinson at length. Councilman Robinson was unable or unwilling to point out any instances of ‘racial discrimination and disparity of treatment within the sheriff’s office.’ He would not reveal the source of the allegations or “the African-American leadership in the community” that is displeased with the sheriff’s office.

“Unfortunately, Councilman Robinson did not provide me with any information that would allow me to properly investigate these accusations,” he said.

“Despite not having any specific instances to investigate I have interviewed and will continue to interview my officers, African-American or otherwise, regarding any knowledge or concerns they may have with anyone being mistreated by the sheriff’s office for any reason,” said Strickland. “To date, no concerns have been voiced by any of my officers. However, I will take this opportunity to re-iterate to the public and to my officers and employees that I have an open door policy and will be glad to discuss privately anyone’s concerns. Our Sheriff’s Office will continue our efforts to build positive relationships and to bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement.”

Robinson could not be reached for further comment. Members of Sharpton’s camp from the National Action Network in Atlanta did not return phone calls made by this newspaper.


Heather Walters (442 Posts)