Conway police want input regarding transparency, trustworthiness

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – The Conway Police Department wants to know how you feel about how officers work with the community.

The department partnered with the Social Justice Research Initiative (SJRI) from the College of Science at Coastal Carolina University to put together a survey for citizens and business owners in Conway.

“We’re trying to get a better understanding of how we can better serve the community and be able to find out what the community’s needs are,” said Conway Police Chief Reggie Gosnell.

The study comes after several police shootings in 2016.

“With the officer-involved shootings last year in Dallas and then in Louisiana, it really sparked a desire to see what we can better do in the community,” said Chief Gosnell. “So we wouldn’t have one of the instances happen in Conway.”

Here are a few examples of questions which are rated on a scale from Strongly Disagree-Strongly Agree.

  1. Police can be trusted to make decisions that are right for people in your neighborhood.
  2. I have confidence in the Conway Police Department’s ability to protect me from crime.
  3. The leaders of the Conway Police Department take a very tough stance on improper police behavior.
  4. I have trust and confidence that the Conway Police Department officers are honest, unbiased, caring and lawful.
  5. Decisions to use police force are applied equally to all citizens.

“The questions really are about citizens’ views of the police generally and Conway specifically,” said Director of the SJRI, Dr. Deborah Perkins. “And also any police interactions that may have occurred.”

Gosnell said some of the questions are intense.

“I fully expect us to get some negative input, and some of that’s probably going to be well-deserved, but all the information we gather is going to be good in helping us develop our training and policy development so we can be more responsive to the community,” he added.

The study is part of a larger study done around South Carolina. It was started by The Charleston Illumination Project after the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church shooting in Charleston.

Residents will get a letter in their water bill notifying them of the survey. You can find a link to the survey on the city’s website and hard copies at several locations around Conway:

  • Conway Branch of the Horry County Library
  • Housing Authority of Conway
  • Conway’s Finance Department and Recreation Center
  • EME Apartments
  • Friendship Baptist Church
  • Mason Temple
  • Cherry Hills Missionary Baptist Church
  • Bethel AME Methodist Church

Overall, the goal is to improve relationships between Conway Police, residents and business owners.

“Building transparency in the way we go about doing our business to make sure every member of our community can be assured they’re going to be treated day in and day out as their neighbor would on the other side of town,” added Gosnell.

A second survey also went out to officers within the department.

“They are being asked actually similar questions but theirs are about the communities in which they serve,” added Perkins.

Gosnell said he wanted to make sure he got feedback from his officers, especially younger members of the department.

“Sometimes they get the mentality: It’s us against them. And it’s anything but that,” he added. “Our officers are people who are giving. If they’re here for the right reason, they’re here for community and the police department needs to be a reflection of the community we serve.”

“I think it’s really great that this police department in Conway is being proactive to build trust and relationships with the citizens here,” added Perkins.

The survey is completely anonymous and researchers hope to collect enough data by August 31. Written findings will be available once the SJRI collects and analyzes the data.