Raleigh, N.C. — Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg, says he'll file a bill next session to ban the use of profiling by law enforcement.
Moore said Monday that his bill was inspired by the July death of Eric Garner in New York City and the August death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. He said he's hopeful it could be a model for the rest of the nation.
"My intent in filing this legislation is to be proactive, to have sensible policy alternatives so that we can begin to build transparency in the process when these incidences of questionable conduct occur," he said at a press conference, "as well as starting to build communication and an environment of trust between law enforcement and communities of color."
The bill would prohibit officers from "discriminatory profiling" on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual orientation." It would also require law enforcement agencies to collect and disseminate more data on investigations, arrests and other interactions with the public.
The proposal would mandate more training for law enforcement officers on diversity and how to avoid profiling, as well as additional training for citizens involved in neighborhood watch groups. It would also allow counties to set up citizen police review panels with subpoena powers to investigate complaints of police misconduct.
“When we give someone this type of power, we must have adequate civilian oversight," Rev. George Jackson of Greensboro said of the proposed review boards. "It has no meaning unless it has the capacity to compel testimony, so that people have to come. That's democracy. More and more citizens having a voice and a role to play in this."
According to a recent report by the NAACP, 20 states have no laws on their books dealing with racial profiling. A North Carolina law from 2000 requires law enforcement agencies to collect demographic data on traffic stops, but it doesn't require that data to be published on a regular basis. It also doesn’t specifically ban or even define discriminatory profiling.
Racial profiling is a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Officers who are found to be using racial profiling can be subject to federal charges, such as those brought against Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson by the U.S. Department of Justice. Johnson’s civil trial concluded in August, but U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder has not yet issued a ruling.
Moore said he understands why agencies nearly always deny profiling. "They’re going to say, 'Well, that’s not us.' But when you talk to the average citizens and you drill into the statistics, then there is a problem. It’s a cultural problem. It’s a systemic problem.
"I know this will not be an easy conversation to have," he said. "It’s going to be a tough bill. I always tell people this is a marathon, not a sprint. But I always look at it positively, and I think the time is right to have this debate. And the time is now for North Carolina to take the lead in saying that this type of behavior is unacceptable."