Raleigh, N.C. — A Wednesday morning news conference at the General Assembly designed to announce an initiative to better train young drivers how to respond during a traffic stop also served as a platform to tout several law enforcement-related bills, all of which happen to be bottled up in the Senate.
Lawmakers have been working to improve the engagement between law enforcement and the communities they serve, said Rep. Ed Hanes, D-Forsyth, citing a measure passed last year to create access rules for footage from police body cameras and dashboard cameras.
That trend has continued this session, Hanes said, with all of the following bills having cleared the House:
- House Bill 21, which would require instruction for young drivers on the proper protocol to follow during a traffic stop.
- House Bill 84, which would put a designation on a driver's license if a person is deaf or hearing-impaired.
- House Bill 571, which would automatically expunge the criminal record of someone who had been wrongfully convicted.
- House Bill 591, which calls for a study on how to train law enforcement officers to interact better with people who might not understand their instructions because of a mental illness or disability.
- House Bill 797, which would refine the body camera footage access rules.
Each of those bills has been sitting in the Senate since April, with little or no action taken. With the General Assembly heading toward the end of its session, however, movement is starting to occur on at least a couple of the bills: the Senate Rules Committee made changes to House Bill 84 on Wednesday and approved House Bill 21 as well. Once bills clear the Rules Committee, they can head to the Senate floor for a vote.
"Every time a citizen meets a police officer, one or the other or both could be at a moment of stress, and that's where we see problems," said Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, a retired police chief. "If we can give [young drivers] some good, solid, short advice when they're getting their driver's license, I think that's a great start."
"Working together, working collectively, working with mutual respect, we can decrease the probability that these tragic incidences occur, but more importantly, we can educate the public about appropriate protocol," said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham.