Police chief who led force after shooting is stepping down
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The police chief who led South Carolina’s third largest city through the crisis after one of its officers was charged with murder in the shooting death of a black man who fled a traffic stop is leaving the force.
Chief Eddie Driggers is stepping aside Thursday to become a special assistant to the mayor, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said.
His replacement will be North Charleston’s first black police chief. Assistant Chief Reggie Burgess, 52, has lived in North Charleston all his life, graduating from high school there and rising from patrolman in 1989 to top cop.
Burgess will take over Thursday during another time of transition for North Charleston, which is again trying to figure out the best way to fight crime in a city of 110,000 people that is about half African-American.
Driggers was chief in 2015 when white officer Michael Slager shot Walter Scott, an unarmed black driver running from a traffic stop. Slager was sentenced last month to 20 years in prison.
The North Charleston force came under massive scrutiny for its aggressive tactics after a sharp increase in crime. Scott was pulled over for a broken brake light, a tactic the force frequently used. Residents said the constant traffic stops and questioning of people walking down the street was harassment for no reason.
Driggers’ experience was questioned. He had been retired from day-to-day police work for four years when North Charleston hired him in 2012. Driggers met with community leaders and softened the crackdown type of policing, which won praise. But recently crime has started increasing in North Charleston. The city set a record with 32 homicides in 2016 and broke it in 2017 with 35 killings.
Burgess’ hire is important because he knows North Charleston and the city needs an insider to make it safer and help it continue to grow, Summey said in a statement.
“It gives us the opportunity to do something I have not been able to do in the 23 years I have been mayor, and that is take someone who started with this department and see them rise and be trained to become police chief,” Summey said.
Burgess said he has wanted to help his community since he would watch police shows on TV as a child.
“I knew becoming a police officer would allow me to have a direct impact on improving my city and the neighborhoods where I grew up,” Burgess said in a statement.