RALEIGH — A statewide task force appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper has released a sweeping set of recommendations aimed at ending racism in the criminal justice system.
Black North Carolinians are nearly six times as likely to be incarcerated as Caucasian residents, twice as likely to be pulled over for a traffic stop, and also more likely to be jailed before trial.
Attorney Dawn Blagrove, executive director of the group Emancipate North Carolina, said the police response to last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol underscores how Black and Brown people often are treated differently by law enforcement and the courts.
“The stark difference that was put on display is precisely why we need our legislators to take seriously the concerns that Black and Brown people all over this country have raised about the disparate treatment,” she said.
The North Carolina Association of Sheriffs recently released its own report on law-enforcement professionalism. It called for changes to officer education requirements, training and certification. The report opposed many of the task-force recommendations, including removing school resource officers, creating citizen review boards and allowing public access to officers’ disciplinary records.
Task force member Kerwin Pittman, founder of Recidivism Reduction Educational Programs Services, said the task force now will work to determine which recommendations could be implemented by police departments locally, and which would need to be taken up by lawmakers in the General Assembly.
“The task force work is not over, even after the 18 months of the implementation phase is done,” he said. “We created a smaller task force to continue this work on, indefinitely.”
Blagrove noted that the report advised police departments to ban chokeholds and implement policies that require officers to intervene and report cases of excessive use of force or abuse of a suspect.
“We need to take law enforcement seriously,” she said, “we need to be able to hold them accountable, and we need to put law enforcement under the microscope and weed out those folks who are there for ill will — who are there not to serve all of the people, but just the people that they want to serve.”
The report also called for ending racial disparities in the court system by reforming pre-trial detention, cash bail, court fines and fees, and legalizing marijuana possession.