The following is a statement from Kristin Graziano, candidate for Charleston County sheriff, in response to the increased police presence in downtown Charleston:
I have read with great interest and concern about the increase in law enforcement in downtown Charleston. But before I share my perspective, I want to be very clear: The shooting death on Lower King Street was awful, and the people who are responsible should be brought to justice. Equally tragic were the shooting deaths on Montague Avenue, in West Ashley, and in Waylyn within the past two weeks.
What I want to share with you is my great apprehension with recent law enforcement actions, particularly with what is happening in Charleston right now as well as throughout the country. Downtown Charleston is not the jurisdiction of the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, and as a former SWAT leader I do not agree with proactive SWAT patrols. It is not uncommon for citizen outcry after a tragedy occurs, and law enforcement will always respond. But there is a difference between responding and overreacting. And most importantly, where has been the outcry for more police investment in low-income neighborhoods? To me and many others, this is an example of police prioritizing white lives over Black and brown lives.
I see many parallels being drawn between Al Cannon, who is being forced to campaign for the first time in his 32-year tenure as sheriff, and President Trump, who has created his own executive branch militia and is beginning to deploy them to Democratic-leaning cities. Everyone should be alarmed. This is not normal. Cannon and Trump are afraid of losing their election, and they are using their political power to put fear in the hearts of voters.
That’s not who I am or how I have done my job in law enforcement for the past three decades.
It is statistically proven that violent crime has been falling across the United States since the 1960s, yet it serves the Republican Party to spread the opposite message. The crime rate has fallen because law enforcement tactics have slowly changed over time and many -- but not all -- people’s economic situations have improved.. Law enforcement has made many mistakes, and too many people -- particularly Black and brown people -- have been incarcerated in the process. One of the main reasons I’m running is because I want to have more citizen involvement and oversight, and I want to put more emphasis on de-escalation and repairing relationships with every single community in Charleston County. I want more focus on rehabilitative practices, so we can put our men, women, and children back at home with their families, back in school or back at work.
I can’t help but be concerned about the direction of our state and country at this present moment. As a sheriff’s deputy, I was tasked with upholding the state and U.S. constitution and its laws. And I’ve done that effectively. But what I and my fellow deputies face on a daily basis are the messes that some elected officials have neglected or ignored. We know that the best preventative measures for crime is a good education, economic security, and access to health care. There is a direct correlation between crime and poverty, and until we systematically address the issues related to poverty, it will be difficult to utilize preventative practices for crime.
When I’m sheriff, I will depend on our state legislators and our congressional representatives to hold up their end of the deal, so I can do mine effectively. For example, raise the minimum wage. We know that poverty and financial insecurity leads to criminal activity. I will be going to Columbia to advocate for such things because I know that investment in our citizens will make a difference.
Finally, I want to reiterate that I will treat every citizen equally, regardless of their skin color, sexual orientation, or economic class, and I will expect my employees to do the same. As your elected sheriff, I will take measures to do deep dives into our policing practices to understand what we are doing wrong and how we can take steps to change. Many people ask me what those specific steps are, and one of the first things would be that I will require annual implicit bias and de-escalation trainings. As sheriff, I will use my power to make sure we receive the funding we need to transform the department.
Soon, there will be a new sheriff in town. And I can’t wait to get started.