Criminal justice reform has been a hot topic across the country over the past several months. In North Carolina, one response to these calls for action was the creation of the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice. Following several weeks of consultations and discussion, the task force has released a report that details their suggestions to change the law enforcement system to allow for more equitable outcomes. Here just a few of the ideas discussed in the report.
One concept detailed in the report is to clarify which issues are public safety matters versus law enforcement matters, and to untether the two. Currently, the report states that law enforcement officers tend to be the first called to situations for issues such as mental health crises addiction or homelessness. Redirecting these calls to social workers or professionals more equipped to handle such matters is a suggestion made by the task force.
Another recommendation was to increase oversight on policing. For example, the task force recommended that law enforcement wear body cameras at all times throughout an investigation, with one exception — if the investigation is sensitive in nature. Further, they recommended that the public have access to recordings of “critical incidents,” provided the court deems that the footage would not compromise an investigation. Critical incidents, by the definition of the task force, could be those in which a police officer discharges a firearm or uses force with a serious outcome (injury or death).
Other recommendations from the task force include bail reform, raising the minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 6 to 12, and preventing over-policing with a data-driven approach. While these are all just recommendations at present, if undertaken, they will have a significant impact on the criminal defense and criminal justice systems in the state. In the interim, some of the observations made by the task force may have implications on current cases. Those who are facing criminal charges should speak with a lawyer to understand current North Carolina laws and protocols, as well as defense options.