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City Council, September 11

Council member Wilson’s impressive feat
Unhappiness with Police Department
Marc Knapp

Last night’s Council meeting opened with the news that Council member Wilson had completed an Hawaiian Channel swim. She now had an impressive, if not unique record of swimming achievements. She already holds what is called in swimming circles the Triple Crown by swimming the English Channel, the Catalina Channel in California, and the Manhattan Island Marathon. Her Hawaiian Channel swim took 20 hours, by any standard, an incredible endurance. Mayor Riley said there were difficulties and adventure, particularly at the end. But he would not attempt to describe them. This would be left to the Council member on her return.

There really wasn’t much else to report on from the meeting, at least nothing on the agenda.

There was promise of some discussion of a proposal to create a Downtown Commercial Transportation Services Overlay Zone. This was seen as a means to regulate mopeds, golf carts and slow moving vehicles on the Peninsula, and to bring City ordinances in line with that of the State. But the vote was deferred to give Council member Seekings time to study the issue. He is a member of the Transportation Committee that proposed the new Overlay but was not able to attend the last meeting of the Committee when the issue was discussed.

The moratorium on simulated gambling devices (Internet Cafes) was extended for another 90 days. At the time the original moratorium was imposed, Council expected the state to address the issue. An effort was made but it died through lack of support. Council member Alexander moved that staff study the issue. Should the gambling devices be prohibited in the City? If not, what regulations should be imposed? He also called for a Public Hearing. Council voted for his proposal with only Council members Riegel and Mitchell opposed.

The action, or perhaps better described as the conspicuous lack of action came at the end of the Council meeting. Both Council members Mitchell and Lewis commented on the incident at Burke High School, which we reported in our note on the last Council meeting. Council member Mitchell was at the school and witnessed aggressive behavior of a police officer towards a student. The student did not have a good record and clearly had been a problem for the school. The police officer according to the Council member slammed the student against the wall. No matter the student’s past, the action of the officer was not warranted, he said. Chief Mullen was to report on the incident.

Council member Mitchell said that he was unsatisfied with the action of the Police Department. It seems that the incident was ignored or not considered an issue. Council member Lewis said more - the integrity of the Council member Mitchell was challenged by the Police action. A Council member saw with his own eyes an event that was questionable. Yet the Police Department chose to ignore it, implying “What you said was a lie”.

We thought Mayor Riley would say something at the conclusion of the comments by the two Council members. But he and other Councilmembers remained silent.

On a related note, we hear a lot of buzz and from some Council members, about the many departures from the City’s Police Department. Some say the departures reflect the unhappiness with the policies of Police Chief Mullen. Others admit to the high level of departures. But this does not mean that the new policies are bad, they say. The Chief is attempting to modernize the department and old hands particularly may resent the changes. It seems a number of senior officers recently have joined the forces of North Charleston and the County. There is also some well founded concern about the average experience level of the street officer being well below three years. This alone could be a recipe for problems.

We think the Mayor needs to comment on the situation and to clarify what really is happening.

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