Blacks in North Carolina are twice as likely to be killed by police as whites
The Criminal Justice Council says police are poorly trained to defuse tense situations. Implicit racial prejudice is widespread.
Blacks were twice as likely to be killed by police in North Carolina as whites from 2013 to 2021, according to the Police violence mapping project.
Blacks also accounted for more than a third of the 249 deaths involving law enforcement officers in North Carolina, but only represent 22% of the state’s population.
Just over half of those 249 deaths listed an underlying cause associated with the use of force by law enforcement. About a dozen were from traffic stops and 16 involved a mental health situation or “feel-good check”. Twenty-seven people have been killed in situations arising from non-violent crime, including drug offenses and a warrant for service.
For gun deaths, the majority of victims were not fleeing at the time of the shooting, data originally compiled by the Washington post shows.
Although there is no comprehensive national database on police-related deaths, Mapping Police Violence relies on several databases maintained by citizens and officials. Washington post police shooting database.
Prosecutions of officers are extremely rare
Despite the large number of deaths, officers are rarely charged against them. Only four charges against officers have been documented during this period – three involving white victims and only one involving a black victim.
In the latest incident, Charlotte Constable Randall Kerrick was charged with the murder of a 24-year-old unarmed former football player named Jonathan Ferrell. However, after a jury failed to reach a verdict, prosecutors dropped the charges. Kerrick later resigned, according to WBTV report.
The only conviction during the period was handed down by a jury in a case in which a white man died after being charged. Jesse Santifort, then an officer in the Kenly Police Department, was convicted of manslaughter.
More recently, the Pasquotank County District Attorney decided not to criminally indict three sheriff’s deputies in the murder of Andrew Brown Jr., a 42-year-old black resident of Elizabeth City.
After reviewing camera footage of the police corps, Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble justified the police conduct – they fired 14 shots at Brown as he walked away from them to escape arrest – claiming that they had legitimately exercised their power of arrest as Brown. tried to flee and used his car as a deadly weapon.
After an internal departmental inquiry, the deputies will only receive disciplinary action and more training.
North Carolina’s low prosecution rate is in line with national trend, says researchers who studied the shootings in service. Across the country, 35 law enforcement officers were convicted of a felony as a result of the shootings between 2005 and 2019.
Steve Friedland, professor of law and senior researcher at Elon University, was previously an associate lawyer in the United States. He said a special prosecutor could change the culture of criminal justice, but more needs to be done.
“We have a historical evolution of policing, which started with slave patrols and an evolution towards anti-union fighting and things like that over the course of our history, so we have a lot of different things that coincide in the police and what they need, ”Friedland said. “I think we are at a point in our history where we are wondering what the purpose of the police is.”
Friedland added that constant racial disparities indicate a widespread implicit bias in policing, traffic stops for the use of force.
One example is the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, which, according to an investigation by the United States Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, showed a pattern of over-controlling the Latinx community during traffic stops. The sheriff’s office agreed in a regulation in 2016 to commit to adopting unbiased policing policies.
Despite the training of officers, prejudices persist
Despite the training, racial prejudice did not end in Alamance County. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police, the local community, troubled by a history of systemic racism, took to the streets and demanded that the Confederate monument outside the county courthouse be removed. But the demonstrators were then forbidden to assemble on the grounds of the courthouse. After the county settled a First Amendment rights lawsuit with the local NAACP and residents, the sheriff’s office agreed to conduct more implicit bias training.
The sheriff’s office held a four-hour session earlier this year, and will do so again next year, Michelle Mills, the office’s spokeswoman, said in an email.
Another civil lawsuit against Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson is seeking answers and more accountability in such questions. While the trial is underway in U.S. District Court, the Graham Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office have continued to face criticism, with some protesters suggesting racial profiling was still present in the courts. arrests as recent as in May 2021.
“I think we are at a point in our history where we are wondering what the purpose of the police is.” – Steve Friedland, Professor of Law at Elon University and
former American deputy lawyer
Elizabeth Haddix, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs in both cases, said that while community members continue to press for police services to change, current elected officials in leadership positions have resisted structural reforms.
“The problems that their lawsuit seeks to solve are still happening,” Haddix said.
Currently, police recruits must complete the 640-hour basic training program before becoming a law enforcement officer in North Carolina. The state requires that sworn officers undergo continuous training 24 hours a year.
De-escalation training was first introduced in continuing education in 2018, but was not part of the certification training program in North Carolina. It will be integrated into the new basic training program in 2022, Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Brewer said in an email.
A “Policing Task Force” established by the Washington, DC office Criminal Justice Council reported last November that “US police training is too short, uses ineffective teaching methods, and devotes too little time to de-escalation, communication skills, problem-solving, and scenarios that officers are most likely to meet in the community. ” The task force identified the establishment of national training standards as one of the five priorities for police reform.
The Criminal Justice Council highlighted four other priorities: the creation of a register of revocation of accreditation in the event of police misconduct; establish mandatory reporting policies for officers to report their peers; promote understanding of the trauma experienced by vulnerable communities; and improving data collection and transparency.
Progress hampered by the lack of diversity of local law enforcement agencies, outside of control
Studies have shown that there is more use of force when the racial makeup of a law enforcement agency does not reflect the demographics of the communities it serves, particularly when white agents of law enforcement order interact with black civilians. This seems to be a common situation in North Carolina.
Revised Policy Watch demographic survey data on law enforcement and found that of the 94 local police departments and sheriff’s offices that reported data, 19 – or 20% – had an all-white department of sworn officers in 2016.
When matching and comparing these numbers with the county population, 21 sheriff’s offices with available data have a lower percentage of minority officers than their respective county population. Lack of diversity and representation is particularly common in less populated counties.
The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office had one of the biggest gaps in representation, with 92% of law enforcement officers being white, compared to 70% of the county’s white population.
Pasquotank County is not listed in the Law Enforcement Demographic Survey.
After the murder of Andrew Brown in Pasquotank County, Governor Roy Cooper call for appointment of an independent prosecutor, as was done in the Minnesota Attorney General’s prosecution of policeman Derek Chauvin, later convicted of the murder of George Floyd.
however, North Carolina Law allows an independent prosecutor to intervene only when the prosecutor requests state assistance. Womble ruled out that possibility when he announced his decision to close the investigation without charge in a press conference earlier this month.
“I am elected by the people of the First District to do exactly this job,” Womble said at the press conference. “A special prosecutor, or an outside lawyer, is not accountable to the inhabitants of this judicial district.”
However, many experts and lawyers disagree. State Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls recently said the police accountability system in the state is broken.
Earls noted the influence of police chiefs and sheriffs on police culture in their offices. “You can create a police service that provides public safety in a culture that does not result in unwarranted police shootings,” Earls said.
Earls co-chairs the Governor’s Task Force on Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, which recommended reviews by special prosecutors as a tool to promote accountability in his report released last year.
This recommendation has, in turn, been included in legislation (House Bill 532) introduced by Democratic lawmakers in April. However, the bill was never heard in committee.
“I think the people of North Carolina deserve better, even without coming to a definitive conclusion as to whether the shooting was justified or not,” Earls said in an interview. “The fact that there is no state body other than the local DA, which ends up making this decision, does not serve us well.”