By HEATHER RUPPE
Last week, leaders from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office and the Walterboro Police Department sat down with members of the Colleton community and answered questions from residents, all as a way to improve communication between the law enforcement agencies and members of the public.
The July 13th event was called “Changing the Narrative.” Created by community member Juanita Harvey, the “ask and answer” session lets members of the public submit questions via email to either the city’s police department or the countywide sheriff’s office.
Members of the public were invited to attend in person and ask questions.
The questions were asked to the respective law enforcement agencies by Colleton County Councilman Phillip Taylor. Leaders from both the WPD and the CCSO were on hand to answer them.
“We want the community to have a better understanding of what we do,” said Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Spokeswoman Shalane Lowes. Lowes has been working with Harvey to promote the event.
Some of the top questions asked during this event were about officer training and officers’ obligations to Colleton County citizens. Other frequently-asked questions were about why reasons officers stop vehicles, other than a vehicle having an improper plate or tag; whether or not officers must wear body cameras all the time during a call; what happens when a body camera dies while an officer is on a service call; and what are policies for off-duty officers responding to crimes.
The public also asked what steps private citizens can take to see more interaction between officers and residents in Colleton’s rural areas.
Last week, the sheriff’s office announced it promoted Cpl. James Brown as the new Community Relations Officer. In this role, Brown’s primary job is to build relationships with each community in Colleton County, creating events for the public and officers to attend together and educating the community on the sheriff’s office and what it does. After last week’s forum, Lowes said Brown’s role is more important than ever to the Colleton community. “The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office is always implementing new ways for our officers to effectively communicate with our citizens. The Changing the Narrative Event, along with the recent implementation of our Community Relations Officer is just a few examples of the strides the sheriff’s office is taking to enhance these efforts. We encourage citizens who have ideas to reach out to us; we would love to discuss those in detail,” said Lowes.
When asked if she felt this event helped to bridge any the communication gap between law enforcement officers and the community, Lowes said, “Yes.”
“This community outreach event is taking place multiple times throughout the year; both agencies will continue taking part in the event,” she said.