Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina House Democrats have filed a proposal for a state ban on racial profiling by law enforcement agencies.
Racial profiling is already illegal under federal law as a violation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. The bill would add to state law a prohibition against "investigation, detention, or arrest based on the person's real or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, rather than on the person's behavior or on information identifying the person as having engaged in criminal activity."
House Bill 193 would also give "citizen review boards" wide-ranging investigative powers to handle complaints of racial profiling and would have the power to discipline or even fire officers found to have engaged in the practice.
The proposal also requires law enforcement agencies to compile demographic data on murder investigations, traffic stops and use of deadly force by officers and to make that information publicly available. And it calls for additional training for law enforcement officers and neighborhood watch participants.
"There have been instances across the nation where there's been some questionable actions as regards to police and homicides of men of color," said sponsor Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg. "This is a great first step in having a conversation about how our law enforcement agencies interact with our communities of color and with communities as a whole."
Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, said many of her constituents have told her they support a citizen review panel.
"They wanted fairness. They wanted someone to be kind of a watchdog and oversee [law enforcement officers] and make sure that people are treated equally," Farmer-Butterfield said.
The bill is one of the top priorities of the Legislative Black Caucus, said caucus leader Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland.
Pierce credited some law enforcement officers with improved sensitivity to unconscious racial profiling but said North Carolina is "not there yet."
"Too many young men end up in the court system because of what they look like," Pierce said.
Raleigh Police Protective Association spokesman Brian Lewis said much of the bill simply codifies current standard practices for training, ethics and community responsiveness. But other parts, such as the citizen review panels, "need more discussion and thought."
"In Raleigh, we have an internal affairs unit that investigates alleged misconduct or criminal conduct against any member of the Raleigh Police Department. This unit ensures all allegations against officers are investigated thoroughly, objectively and with an understanding of professional police work," Lewis said.