One month after the shooting of Denaul Dickerson, Charleston Police Chief James “Tyke” Hunt shared the department’s plan of action as it eyes improving in de-escalation tactics and using fewer lethal weapons.
Among those steps include an end to using shotguns as a lethal weapon, increased training and assorted requests to purchase additional resources, according to a letter sent by Hunt and received by Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin on Tuesday.
In his letter, Hunt noted that the department had a total of 88 stun guns in its inventory, but only 57 are “operational and safe for use.” Fifty-five of those have been placed with officers who have been recertified to operate a taser and two will remain with the department’s Training Division.
Hunt also recommended an upgrade to the Taser7, calling it a “significantly more effective” resource compared to what is in the department’s current inventory. The cost to obtain 90 of them would require a 5-year contract with the law enforcement technology company Axon, totaling $298,850.
As the department looks toward less-lethal options, shotguns will no longer be carried as a lethal choice.
There are 37 in the department’s inventory that are being converted to a “less-lethal tool,” with the conversion set to be completed by mid-June. The process of making these weapons less-lethal requires the switch to “beanbag” rounds, which will be the only ones made available to non-SWAT officers.
Further, Hunt requested the purchase of an additional 13 shotguns, so as to equip each supervisor vehicle in the patrol division.
In regard to body cameras, Hunt stressed his satisfaction in how the department’s current inventory was operated during the shooting incident, calling them “invaluable” and requesting the purchase of an additional 90 cameras.
Hunt plans to mandate that all uniformed officers be issued a body camera. According to the current policy, only officers with the rank of sergeant or under wear them.
Additionally, 10 officers will be sent to a de-escalation training course later this summer “that addresses an officer’s handling of mental health related calls to service.”
Hunt’s letter is a response to one sent by Goodwin on May 3 in which she calls for a plan of action in regard to the department’s “need to train our police officers in de-escalation and use of non-lethal force.” Specifically, she requested:
“Mandatory taser training and certification for all Charleston police officers, starting with patrol officers;
An inventory of all tasers owned by the Charleston Police Department and a recommendation for purchase of any new tasers necessary to properly equip our officers;
Additional training in de-escalation tactics for officers, with a specific focus on de-escalation tactics relating to mental illness, and
Additional training and supply purchase for officers in the use of non-lethal force.”
The letter came days after the police shooting of Dickerson, a 33-year-old Black man, in an incident that spawned discussion about the department’s usage of tasers and other types of non-lethal force.
In police body cam footage of the incident, numerous officers are heard asking about a taser, with one later saying “We ain’t got a taser, nobody’s got a taser.” Hunt later clarified that many officers do not have access to such a tool, nor do many of them have the proper certification to use one.
Goodwin expressed she was content with the plan, saying in a statement that she will work with City Council and Charleston City Manager Jonathan Storage “to find ways to provide necessary funding for these needed projects.”
“While we can always do better, and will continue to do better, the steps outlined in the Chief’s plan will provide more officers with the equipment and training needed to keep everyone safe,” Goodwin said in a statement. “I am very happy with this plan as presented and look forward to implementing these measures in a timely fashion.”