- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Some North Carolina lawmakers and social justice activists on Monday endorsed draft legislation to make it plain that racial or ethnic profiling by police is illegal and to give citizens more authority to look into alleged officer misconduct.

Rep. Rodney Moore said a bill he intends to file when the General Assembly reconvenes next month would actually improve relations between police and citizens and get all people talking.

“Discrimination in any form is unacceptable in our society, but even more so in the men and women that we entrust to protect and defend our most basic rights as citizens and as human beings,” Moore, D-Mecklenburg, said at a Legislative Building news conference. Introducing the bill, Moore added, can start to build “an environment of trust between law enforcement and communities of color.”

The 11-page draft bill would prohibit “discriminatory profiling” of citizens by law enforcement officers on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or sexual orientation and require police and deputies to be trained on illegal profiling.

Moore said he started working on it long before grand juries recently refused to indict white officers in incidents in which black men died in Ferguson, Missouri and in New York and that led to violent and nonviolent protests. Moore also mentioned other deaths, including the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who was acquitted last year.



The U.S. Supreme Court already has found racial profiling unlawful and the U.S. Justice Department last week updated police guidelines to prevent it. But civil rights groups say it still happens and some states lack specific laws banning it.

Under Moore’s bill, cities and counties could create citizen review boards with subpoena power to investigate misconduct allegations and punish officers found to have committed wrongdoing. A few North Carolina municipalities already have similar boards but lack such power. Local governments also would train neighborhood watch program members and make it clear they’re not supposed to confront potential crime suspects.

“We need legislation like this to hold police accountable,” said Jaymes Powell, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party’s African-American Caucus. “Because it’s scary right now. It’s scary around this state being African-American, because if something happens to me on the way home, I doubt anybody will be held accountable.”

Moore said he’s hoping the Republican-led General Assembly will give him a public forum to discuss the legislation but said his aim is to get a bill on Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, said he doesn’t expect a positive response in the chamber to allowing review boards statewide, after opposition to a recent proposal for a Fayetteville board. Daughtry said he wants to see the details of the profiling ban language, but said “everyone would say that racial profiling is not something that we would support or approve of it.”

Representatives of police groups said Monday they want to work with Moore but also have concerns with part of his legislation.

Racial discrimination is already prohibited by law and subject to civil lawsuit and firings, while training to avoid such bias is already prevalent in law enforcement, said Fred Baggett, legislative counsel for the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police. In Raleigh, citizens can file complaints against officers and provide evidence, said Brian Lewis, a lobbyist for the 900-member Raleigh Police Protective Association, part of Teamsters Local 391.

“We encourage legislators to balance a citizen’s right to file a complaint with the understanding of being a professional police officer, which is extremely dangerous work,” Lewis wrote in an email.

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