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Black and blue: Survey shows bruised relations between minorities, law enforcement in Pee Dee
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Black and blue: Survey shows bruised relations between minorities, law enforcement in Pee Dee

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FLORENCE, S.C. — When T.J. Joye and James Hudson take office soon as sheriffs of Florence and Darlington counties, respectively, one of the challenges they'll face is improving the relationship between African Americans and law enforcement. 

A recent survey of Pee Dee residents conducted by Crantford Research at the behest of the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault, Francis Marion University and the Morning News shows that 63% of the 134 nonwhite males surveyed said they believed that police officers were more likely to treat a minority with more suspicion when they were stopped.

Only 30% of the whites surveyed thought a police officer would treat a minority with more suspicion. 

Participants were also asked if they felt that local police and sheriff's offices employed enough African Americans. Nearly 75% of the white males said, yes, there were enough African Americans working in local law enforcement. That number decreases to 55% among minority males. The answers go more extreme with younger participants and less extreme with older participants. 

Joye said he and his transition team were still in the process of developing minority-outreach plans for the sheriff's office. Hudson said he isn't sure yet what he and his department are going to do.

The survey

Info Graphic Part 1

The idea for the survey started with Pee Dee Coalition Director C. Ellen Hamilton, Francis Marion University President Fred Carter said. 

She said she read an article that featured a national survey conducted by Pew Research. Hamilton said the Pee Dee Coalition uses Pew Research products to understand how it can respond better to its clients' needs. 

In the PEW survey, which was conducted in the early fall of 2018, the Pew Research staffer determined that 84% of African American adults said that African Americans were treated less fairly than whites by the police. In the survey, 63% of whites said they felt African Americans were treated unfairly by police. 

An article on the survey also listed research conducted in 2016. That research found that African Americans were less likely to say that police were doing a good job overall and of using the right amount of force, that African Americans were less likely to say that police were doing a good job of treating ethnic groups equally and of holding officers accountable when there is misconduct. 

Hamilton said she wondered how the Pee Dee felt about police, so she decided to work with coalition communications director Savannah Wright to conduct a survey on the coalition's newsletter. They quickly found that the survey would not be representative of the community. 

So she approached Carter and Francis Marion because the university has worked with the coalition on projects in the past. Hamilton and Carter then approached the Morning News.

Carter suggested a more extensive approach. 

The resulting survey was done this summer shortly after the death of George Floyd. 

Publication of the results of the survey was delayed due to concerns that results could unintentionally influence the elections − particularly the races for sheriff − in the Pee Dee.

Results

Info Graphic Part 2

The Crantford Research survey of 601 people included 135 white males and 134 nonwhite males, 80 white people between 18 and 45, 116 people of color between 18 and 45, 183 white people 46 or older and 206 people of color 46 and older who were surveyed this summer. Approximately 85% of the nonwhites surveyed were African American. 

The survey also broke participants into three categories: Florence County residents, Darlington County residents and residents of other Pee Dee counties. 

Exactly 90% of white males surveyed said they felt safer when they saw a patrolling police car in their neighborhood compared to 55% of minority males. 

The percentage of residents in each county category was around 70%. 

Another question asked participants whether they felt confident that police officers were trained to keep confrontations from leading to violence. More than 75% of whites aged between 18 and 45 and 89% of whites 46 and older said they felt at least somewhat confident that police officers had been trained. This number decreases to 56% for minorities aged 18 to 45 and 59% for minorities aged 46 and over. 

The number of minority participants (38% from ages 18 to 45 and 36% ages 46 and over) who said they were not very sure that officers had been trained was more than double whites (18% ages 18 to 45 and 4% ages 46 and up). 

In terms of county, the percentages were about the same but more people answered somewhat instead of excellent in Florence compared to other counties. 

In terms of controlling crime, 16% of minorities aged 18 to 45 said their local police department did a poor job. This number is 4% among whites of the same age. For ages 46 and above, none of the whites surveyed said police were doing a poor job, but 9% of the minorities surveyed did. 

In terms of county, the percentages were about the same but more people answered somewhat instead of excellent in Florence compared to other counties. 

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In terms of gender, more males trended toward excellent and more females trended toward somewhat. 

With the differences in views of police known since at least 2016, Joye, Hudson, the sheriff's offices and local police departments have many plans to heal the relationship divide. 

Florence County Sheriff's Office

Joye was elected Florence County sheriff over Democrat Darrin Yarborough, an African American, in the Nov. 3 general election. Joye defeated Florence County Chief Deputy Glen Kirby in the Republican primary. 

Joye did, however, add that he felt the city of Florence was doing a great job with its community-outreach programs and that he felt it was important for the sheriff's office to listen to the community's concerns. 

The current efforts of the sheriff's office are headed by Lt. Stevie Mumford, son of Florence County Councilman Waymon Mumford.

Joye also talked about having Stevie Mumford continue his work. 

The sheriff's office currently has crime-watch groups, presentations to schools, businesses, churches and community groups to keep the public in touch with the office. 

Maj. Mike Nunn of the sheriff's office said the office had noticed an article last week in the Morning News about the survey. He said that it was clear for the most part that the Pee Dee views law enforcement in a different light than that shown by the media and other locations.

Darlington County Sheriff's Office

Hudson, a Democrat, defeated Republican Michael August and incumbent Tony Chavis — who was running a write-in campaign — in the Nov. 3 general election. Hudson defeated Chavis in the Democratic primary. 

Hudson is an African American. August and Chavis are both white. 

Hudson said he would determine what he was going to do to improve relations with African Americans after he is in office. 

Local cities with police departments also must confront the relationship difficulties between African Americans and the police. 

Florence Police Department

Florence Police Chief Allen Heidler said that several years ago his department developed a community police concept with efforts focused in  predominantly African American neighborhoods to build trust between city residents and the police.

"Although limited recently by COVID-19, our officers have worked closely with the folks living in these neighborhoods, through our many neighborhood watch associations," Heidler said in an emailed statement. "We do this to build strong relationships and to let residents know that law enforcement is the responsibility of everyone and that the police are just members of the community, too."

He added that the city's department also has a citizen advisory board, a citizen's police academy and an annual survey to gauge the community's needs and priorities. 

"Our youth initiatives, including our Police Explorer program and summer-long physical fitness camp, focus heavily on the recruitment of our African American youth for positive contact and interactions with officers," Heidler said. "We are hopeful that these positive interactions will spark an interest within some to consider a future career with the Florence Police Department. Our overall goal is to bring unity between the police and our community through the relationships we are building. We know that building strong relationships and trust requires a constant effort and we are committed to never resting on our laurels."

Hartsville Police Department

Lauren Baker, the director of public information for the city of Hartsville, said the city has developed a safe communities outreach program designed to work on the relationship between African Americans and the police. 

A Facebook page for the group shows officers speaking to children at a schools, holding ice cream with a cop events and playing games with children among other things. 

Another portion of this program is the notified offenders program, which offers recurrent offenders the opportunity to learn to make better choices. Participants receive information about job training and child care among other things. 

Baker added that the two officers involved in the program have offices outside of the police station to make it more comfortable for people. 

12th Circuit solicitor

E.L. "Ed" Clements, solicitor for the judicial circuit covering Florence and Marion counties, said his office operates on a case-by-case basis and makes every effort to enhance security for the community and communicate with victims. 

Darlington Police Department

Capt. Kim Nelson of the Darlington Police Department said her department does outreach programs for everyone. She added that the department did lunches and book giveaways all summer. 

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Government and Politics Reporter

I cover the city of Florence, the county of Florence, the state legislative delegation of Florence County and surrounding areas, and the federal delegation representing the Pee Dee for the Morning News.

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