Raleigh, N.C. — As riots rage in Baltimore, North Carolina Democrats are pushing legislative leaders to allow a committee hearing and a vote on a proposal to ban racial profiling.
Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg, filed House Bill 193, Prohibit Discriminatory Profiling, in March. Like many bills at the legislature, it has not yet had a committee hearing or a vote. Moore and the bill's other sponsors are hoping Republican leaders will reconsider it in light of the unrest sparked by the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
The proposal would require more training for law enforcement officers on racism and profiling, and it would require law enforcement agencies to collect and publish demographic data on traffic stops, homicide cases and officer-involved violence.
It would also allow municipalities to set up citizen review boards for cases of alleged police misconduct. The boards would have the power to subpoena witnesses and issue disciplinary orders in cases where they find evidence of profiling.
Moore and the bill's other backers say the proposal would actually boost public confidence in police, especially in communities of color, where mistrust of law enforcement officers has long been a problem.
"The situation in Baltimore and in Ferguson (Missouri) did not just happen with the deaths of Mike Brown and Freddie Gray. There was an underside. There was a tension that was boiling up, and that was the tipping point," Moore said at a press conference Tuesday. "If you look at communities in North Carolina – there’s instances in Greensboro, there’s instances in Wilmington and Charlotte – this situation is at a tipping point. All we need is for something of that nature to happen in a Wilmington or a Greensboro, and the same thing can happen here."
Racial profiling is already illegal under federal law, Moore conceded, "but it still continues to happen."
One speaker after another added their stories.
J'Mar Davis was shot six times during a traffic stop in Mount Holly in February 2013, and he said police have refused to release the dashboard camera video of the incident. A decorated Iraq War veteran, he said police officers seem to have more leeway to shoot than soldiers do in war zones.
“I was shot six times because cops were antsy,” Davis said. “In war, we couldn’t just shoot someone because we were nervous.”
His mother, Valerie Davis, said his car had more than 30 bullet holes in it.
"These are our babies that they’re killing," she said, "and it needs to stop."
"We need to send a clear message to our law enforcement agencies and to the state of North Carolina that [profiling] will not be tolerated. And that if it does crop up, that we will be very, very vigilant in holding people accountable," Moore said.
The legislation does not have the support of law enforcement organizations, which say that profiling is already banned and that they already have investigatory and disciplinary processes in place to deal with it.
Moore's bill would not be subject to the General Assembly's crossover deadline Thursday because it would involve an appropriation of state funds.