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Lexington Chronicle: Nephron Backs Statewide SC Community Policing Portal With $10K Donation

March 10, 2022

By Jordan Lawrence | jordan@lexingtonchronicle.com
On Thursday, a group that included local police chiefs, the leaders of various S.C. nonprofits and religious organizations and the CEO of a company that generates nearly $200 million annually gathered to announce what they say is a first-of-its-kind effort in community policing.

Backed by a $10,000 donation from Nephron Pharmaceuticals, Serve & Connect, a Columbia-based nonprofit that works to bridge gaps between law enforcement and the communities they serve, unveiled plans to develop a digital portal that will allow local law enforcement agencies throughout the state to interface on efforts to address community policing issues. 

“Today is the start of a monumentous journey,” Kassy Alia Ray, Serve & Connect’s founder and CEO, said from a podium in the lobby of Nephron’s West Columbia headquarters. “Alongside incredible leaders across our state, we're launching a development tool that will enable police departments to track non-enforcement interactions related to community policing. Once developed, this platform will be the first of its kind in the nation and will serve as a critical resource for promoting trust, accountability and transparency and police community relations.”

A press release announcing the initiative cites the U.S. Department of Justice in defining community policing as “a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies that support the systemic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder and fear of crime.”

The intent of the portal is to allow agencies to share efforts they make in their communities, helping them work with their peers to boost successful practices and weed out those that are ineffective.

“Community policing has been around for decades, but it's pretty misunderstood,” Ray said. “Some think it’s just about handing out stickers or ice cream cones. But really, it's so much more than that when it's done well. 

“It is about partnerships between police and community leaders and residents that help address those causes of crime and promote safety. ... The research that we know about it shows that it can be a pivotal tool for helping to build trust and well being and citizen satisfaction but there are some major gaps in our knowledge of what works and what doesn't work.”

A workgroup of 10 leaders from across the state will gather across the next six months to develop the initial structure for the portal, Ray said.

Town of Lexington Police Chief Terrence Green and Lexington County NAACP President James Gates are both members of the workgroup.

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook will chair the group, which also includes Chester County Sheriff Max Dorsey, Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock, Orangeburg Public Safety Chief Charles Austin and Williamston Police Chief Tony Taylor.

Besides Gates, community representatives included in the workgroup are Midlands Fatherhood Coalition CEO Angela McDuffie, Cathedral of Praise Ministries' Pastor Thomas Bell, the state Department of Juvenile Justice’s Felicia Dauway and Seth Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law that Ray touted as a world-renowned expert in community policing.

Holbrook said the portal will allow law enforcement agencies in South Carolina to tell their story and “lean forward” in their communities.

“Community policing is really what we build our foundation in police agencies around the state. And that has never been more evident than in the last 24 months when we've seen nationally some of the social unrest and the issues that have occurred,” he said.

That national unrest erupted in downtown Columbia in the summer of 2020 following the Minnesota murder by cop of George Floyd, as protestors took to the streets, resulting in burned vehicles and damaged storefronts and the use of armored vehicles and riot gear by local authorities.

“We saw [the] importance of relationships, partnership, trust,” Holbrook said.

Lou Kennedy, Nephron’s CEO, who accepted a certificate of gratitude from Serve & Connect, said her company wants to support law enforcement and hopes to show that by funding the development of the portal, which she said should be a great tool.

“We're proud of the work that we do,” she offered. “And the very best way we can show that is by supporting tools like this, and making sure that our law enforcement leaders are equipped and protected so they can take care of our families, our employees, all of those people important to us in and around this community and across the entire state.”