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Task Force Takes Quick Action to Adopt First Criminal Justice Reform Recommendations

For Immediate Release:
Friday, July 24, 2020

Contact:
Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein announced that the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, convened by Gov. Roy Cooper and co-chaired by Justice Anita Earls and the attorney general, adopted three recommendations today. Those include a duty to intervene and report for law enforcement officers, a prohibition of neck holds for law enforcement officers, and a North Carolina Supreme Court requirement of an assessment of ability to pay before levying fines and fees. Law enforcement agencies and the North Carolina Supreme Court will now be asked to implement these recommendations.

“This task force is all about taking action to make our criminal justice system treat people more fairly,” said Attorney General Stein. “These three measures – requiring law enforcement officers to take action when they see something inappropriate or dangerous, forbidding the use of neck holds in North Carolina, and the courts’ ability to make sure people can pay fines and fees before levying them – will all meaningfully address the system’s unfair treatment of Black people. I am encouraged that the task force was willing to move forward quickly in adopting these ideas and I look forward to continuing our important work.”

“Today’s recommendations are basic reforms that have been well thought-out by numerous stakeholders, have broad consensus and can be implemented without delay,” said Associate Justice Anita Earls of the Supreme Court of North Carolina and co-chair of the Governor’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice. “While they are only a start, they represent an important first step in the work of the task force.”

More on the recommendations adopted:

  • The Task Force recommends that all North Carolina law enforcement agencies enact a policy articulating a duty to intervene and report in any case where a law enforcement officer may be a witness to what they know to be an excessive use of force or other abuse of a suspect or arrestee.
  • The Task Force recommends that all North Carolina law enforcement agencies enact a Use of Force policy that, at a minimum, prohibits neck holds.  Law enforcement agencies should consider using the sample policy language below.
    • Sample Policy Language “NECK HOLDS PROHIBITED. Law enforcement officers shall not use chokeholds, strangleholds, Lateral Vascular Neck Restraints, Carotid Restraints, chest compressions, or any other tactics that restrict oxygen or blood flow to the head or neck unless necessary to protect the life of the officer.”
  • The Task Force recommends that the North Carolina Supreme Court enact a General Rule of Practice, which would require an assessment of a defendant’s ability to pay prior to the levying of any fines and fees.

The task force’s next action will be to hear comments from the public on Tuesday, July 28, at 10:00 a.m. People can sign up here to speak for up to two minutes during the public comment session. Once individuals sign up, they will receive a Zoom link to log on to and participate in the session. The public comment session can also be streamed live on the North Carolina Department of Justice’s YouTube channel. Additional public comment sessions will be announced in the future and North Carolinians can also make their voices heard by submitting written comments via this form.

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