Justice Department won't release North Charleston report

AP News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2017 9:39 AM

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department has refused to release a report on the North Charleston Police Department after the shooting death of an unarmed black man by a white officer in South Carolina.

The federal agency said it was holding onto the material because of its "commitment to respecting local law enforcement," The Post and Courier of Charleston reported.

The newspaper filed an open records request for the report sought by North Charleston officials after the 2015 shooting of Walter Scott.

The Justice Department's Chaun Eason said the Justice Department no longer releases reports of investigations of local police.

In April 2015, Scott was pulled over for a traffic violation by patrolman Michael Slager, who said he fired in self-defense when Scott tried to grab his Taser. Eyewitness video shows Scott was shot as he ran away. Slager pleaded guilty to federal charges and awaits sentencing.

Scott's shooting led to calls for a civil rights investigation of the department, but Mayor Keith Summey and Police Chief Eddie Driggers asked the Justice Department last year for a more specific review of police policies and recommendations. Summey said he was disappointed that the federal government was not going to finish the report.

Federal officials had said the report was nearly completed before Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended the review program last month. Police reform advocates and a police advisory commission had hoped the report would serve as a blueprint for change in the North Charleston Police Department.

Eason said there is a legal exception to the open records law allowing the agency to withhold certain communications used in a "deliberative process."

The agency's refocused mission under Sessions also prevents a discretionary release, Eason said.

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Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com