Sunday, February 5, 2012

Commentary by Chief Zumalt: "Setting the record straight"

North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt
In 2006 North Charleston was identified as the 7th most violent city in the United States. We experienced 28 murders that year. In 2007, 26 people were murdered. This epidemic of black on black violence was devastating to our City, its communities, and the families of the victims. Something had to change. In 2007 I pleaded to the public and community leaders for help. While many did help us the leader of the Charleston Branch of the NAACP was quoted in the paper that year saying “Don’t make your job, my job.” Since that time the leaders of the Charleston NAACP have been critical of our community and police efforts to stop the violence and most troubling, have offered no help or solutions. I guess it is easier to criticize than to roll up your shirt sleeves, come to the table and work together to make our communities safer. Until now I have refused to get involved in the negativity directed at our police department. The time has come for me to set the record straight.

The statics tell us that over the last decade 84 percent of violent crime in our City was committed by black suspects and the majority of the victims of those crimes were black. The vast majority of the violence was committed in predominantly black neighborhoods. The majority of people in these neighborhoods are good, law abiding citizens. They were sick of the violence and deserved better from all of us. They wanted our presence and challenged us to make their neighborhoods safe.  In response to those facts I moved a significant portion of our police resources to these high violence neighborhoods and instructed our officers to take a zero tolerance policy toward unlawful behavior. As a result a higher number of blacks are stopped for traffic and pedestrian violations than whites. During each stop I require the officers to remain respectful, explain why they are in the neighborhood and explain to the person the reason for the stop. This communication between the officer and offender is necessary and expected and has proven fruitful in gaining information and in most cases compliance has been achieved through a warning citation. Because of this proactive and focused use of our police resources we had 5 murders in our City in 2011. Murders have dropped 82% and overall violence has dropped by 55 percent since 2006. We must and we will continue this approach to crime control.

We have implemented a number of innovative programs to prevent violence in the future. Our “Cool to be in School” program provides impoverished children the supplies they need for their classroom education and we work with the schools and parents to reduce truancy. Our juvenile diversion program is working to keep children that commit minor offenses out of the juvenile justice system and instead, surround them with the types of services that will help them change their behavior. We do a gun buyback every year to reduce the number of guns on our streets and provide gun safety locks to prevent gun injuries to children. This is positive change. This is problem solving. This is hard work. There are a number of dedicated community leaders that meet with me and the department and help us make our city safe. The leadership of the NAACP has not helped us with these or any of our crime reduction efforts and I wish they would.

I am human and so are my Officers. We make mistakes. When we do, please let me know and I promise that we will work to resolve it and improve. In the sense of fairness, when we do a good job let us know that too. We should all be supporting and thanking the brave and dedicated police officers that are working to reduce crime and gain the trust and respect of our citizens. These men and women are heroes.

Jon R. Zumalt
Chief of the North Charleston Police Department


  1. Sounds like you are being proactive and trying to engage individuals. If they don't want to work with you, that's a shame. So much for trying to do good things for the people you work for, but it's a commentary on much of what is wrong today and you said it in your post: it is easier to find fault and point fingers than to come up with collaborative, openminded and constructive ideas that would benefit everyone in the community. Good luck. It sounds like despite the support of a key stakeholder, you all are doing a great job for them anyway. It's called "taking the high road".

  2. We are grateful for all the great things you are doing to reduce crime in North Charleston! Thank God for leaders who are willing to take things in a better direction, even when support is low. We salute you, and all the heroes that have made it a better place, including our two daughters who are working there and trying to make a difference!!

  3. I have two sons that are employed by the North Charleston Police Department. I applaud the hard work and dedication that Chief Zumalt and his police force has shown and the results are evident by the statistics mentioned. It has been said and it is true, "if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem." Please keep up the good work!