Rep. Rodney Moore, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County, announced at a Monday press conference that he would introduce legislation aimed at curbing racial profiling during the upcoming legislative session.
In the wake of the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Moore said North Carolina lawmakers need to be proactive about preventing a similar tragedy from happening here. He called racial profiling by law enforcement an “age-old problem” in African American communities and for people of color.
“We do not want to see a Ferguson happen here,” Moore said. “If we don’t let our citizens know that their lives matter and that they have access to equal justice and transparency, then those things will happen here in our beloved state.”
Moore described the various objectives of the bill, including
- Prohibiting the practice of discriminatory profiling by law enforcement officers and agencies on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or sexual orientation
- Mandating that new law enforcement officers receive education and training related to the prohibitive practice of discriminatory profiling, and that veteran officers receive the same training as a condition of continuing employment
- Allowing counties and cities to establish Citizen Review Boards that would have the power to receive and investigate complaints against law enforcement officers; the boards would have authority to subpoena witnesses, compel evidence and review internal investigation
- Mandating training for Neighborhood Crime Watch program volunteers
Moore said the legislation, which was created with the collaboration of citizens, activists, non-profits and members of the faith community, would be the first of its kind to be introduced at the state level.
He discouraged an analogy between the work of the Citizen Review Boards and the grand jury process, since that process has been failing and “needs reform.” Moore said that counties and municipalities will be able to determine the composition of the boards. “This bill is meant to give the boards more access evidence for review after a complaint is filed,” he said.
The Rev. Nelson Johnson, a civil rights activist from Greensboro, said the legislation was “much needed and overdue.”
“We certainly need police officers, but we need good police officers, well-trained,” Johnson said. “When we give someone this kind of power, we must have adequate civilian oversight. We needed a greater presence of democracy and openness.”
The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins of Durham’s Covenant Presbyterian Church said he didn’t want to teach his young children to have to fear the police.
“Black parents across the country have to tell their children, when you encounter the police, you have to make sure that you’re almost in a submissive position, that your rights are not the same as the rights of other children,” Hawkins said. “That tells us something is wrong.”