Commentary

Editorials: NC must repair or repeal police body cam law

Two more editorials from major media outlets are blasting the new state law regulating access to video derived from police body cameras that’s set to go into effect on Saturday. This is from an editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal entitled “Legislature needs to repeal police cam law”:

“After last week’s shooting in Charlotte, we again urge the legislature to rescind its wrongheaded law that will prevent most police body cam- and dashboard footage from being made public. Transparency is everything in public trust.

In a press release last week, Andy Miller, the president of the N.C. Sheriff Police Alliance, defended the law, stating, ‘The new Body Camera Law … all but eliminates the typical political agendas of different politicians and narrative movement groups.’

But it should be obvious that no political agendas or opinions were eliminated because these recordings were kept out of the public eye. Instead, the withholding made the situation worse….

Law-enforcement officers perform a difficult and sometimes dangerous task that’s necessary for society to function smoothly. For the most part, officers operate with courage and integrity, which video footage can verify.

In a relative few cases, a bad apple misbehaves. Video footage can verify that, also. But not if it’s buried.

It’s not too late for the legislature to repeal this wrongheaded law.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

And this is from a WRAL.com/Capitol Broadcasting editorial entitled “Outcry over Charlotte police shooting shows NC’s police body cam law needs revision”:

“But now, days before House Bill 972, “Law Enforcement Recordings/No Public Record” becomes effective, significant weaknesses and concerns are all too obvious in this bill passed in a rush. Read more

Commentary

New poll: NC seniors want state government to help with retirement security (infographic)

aarp-infographicI had the opportunity to speak at an AARP North Carolina breakfast this morning that explored some of the issues that concern seniors and that are, sadly, receiving fairly minimal attention from the gubernatorial candidates.

Topping the list for a lot of senior voters is the issue of financial security. According to a recent AARP survey highlighted at left, 77% of seniors polled want state government to establish a public savings plan for workers who lack an employer funded plan.

Let’s hope this very promising idea makes it onto the radar of Governor McCrory and Attorney General Cooper in the days ahead and that it stays on the front burner in 2017 no matter who gets elected in November.

Commentary

National Common Cause president to headline Raleigh luncheon next Wednesday, October 5

Join us October 5th as N.C. Policy Watch presents a special Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Karen Hobert Flynn, President of the national nonprofit watchdog, Common Cause:
How do we repair our broken democracy?

Click here to register

cc-flynnHas American democracy reached a crisis point? If the 2016 election campaign is any indication, this seems a fair assessment. Between the toxic combination of big, dark money, rampant gerrymandering and voter suppression, weak ethics laws and an often dysfunctional news media, the situation can sometimes seem rather bleak and, perhaps, even beyond repair.

Karen Hobert Flynn shares these concerns. As the President of Common Cause, a venerable and nonpartisan nonprofit that battles the forces of reaction and operates under the motto “holding power accountable,” she is acutely aware of the deep problems that confront the American experiment in the 21st Century. Fortunately, Flynn remains optimistic that the American people can and will overcome these enormous challenges and that, better still, the current state of affairs can provide the precise impetus necessary to spark real and lasting change.

Please join us as we hear from this important national leader at this critical moment.

Co-sponsored by Common Cause North Carolina and N.C. Voters for Clean Elections

Click here to register

About the speaker: Karen Hobert Flynn, a democracy reform activist and leader for more than three decades, including 25-plus years on staff and in state and national leadership positions with Common Cause, is the organization’s tenth president.

As Senior Vice President for Programs and Strategy, Karen has led the program and development of Common Cause from 2012-2016. During that time, she oversaw the strategy and planning for the organization and raised significant resources to support Common Cause’s national and state efforts to curb the out-sized influence of big money in politics and to protect voting rights. She launched Common Cause’s campaign to expose and stop the dangerous movement in the states for a constitutional convention that would put in jeopardy every constitutional right or protection currently available to American citizens. She oversaw a dramatic expansion of Common Cause’s digital presence, bringing in hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters.

Karen writes and speaks frequently on issues impacting our democracy, including money in politics, voting rights and ethics for elected officials. She has been quoted and had her writings published in dozens of the nations’ leading publications.

Don’t miss this very special event!

When: Wednesday October 5, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required. Click here for parking info.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

Public defender group weighs in on Charlotte police shooting

Image: NC PDCORE

Image: NC PDCORE

After taking some time to sift through the publicly available facts and measuring them against their decades upon decades of combined experience in North Carolina’s criminal justice system, the good people at the North Carolina Public Defender Committee on Racial Equity or NC PDCORE weighed in yesterday on the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott last week in Charlotte.

Here is their statement:

“On Tuesday September 20th, Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, who reportedly approached Mr. Scott for suspicion of possession of marijuana and possession of a gun in an open carry state. This death, like so many more, was avoidable. To the family of Keith Scott, we offer our sincerest condolences. To the protesters in Charlotte who are raising their voices against racially biased policing, we stand with you. To the stakeholders in the criminal justice system, we call on you to heed the call for change.

While the details of this killing remain contested, the persistence of racial disparities in the criminal justice system is clear and deeply troubling. Study after study after study confirms what our communities of color have been telling us for decades: race influences who is stopped, who is searched, who is arrested, who is subject to use of force, who is held on bail, who is convicted, and who is sentenced to harsher punishments. This appalling reality cannot continue.

As public defenders, we stand for the right to due process for people of all races, creeds, and incomes. Today, we renew our pledge to eradicate the plague of racial inequity in our justice system. We recognize and respect the steps that have been taken by some police, prosecutors and judges in our state towards that goal. Still, we can—and must—do better.

We were dismayed by CMPD’s gross lack of transparency in the days following the shooting. Chief Putney did not release any videos until five days after the shooting, and only did so after intense public pressure and the independent release of a video taken by Mr. Scott’s wife. Withholding this evidence only furthered the mistrust between civilians and police. Likewise, the implementation of a law preventing the public from viewing body camera or dashcam footage of events of utmost importance to the public will do nothing to heal the open wounds made visible by the Charlotte protests.

We can appreciate the need to carefully gather and review evidence before determining whether to charge or admonish an officer. The stark contrast, however, between the treatment of an officer-as-suspect and civilian-as-suspect further highlights the need for a searching and thorough reckoning with the absence of equity in our criminal system.

The North Carolina Public Defender Committee on Racial Equity invites the public and criminal justice stakeholders to join us in sincere dialogue and concrete action to create the system that we deserve and so desperately long for.”

 

Commentary

ACLU: Still more transparency necessary in Charlotte

The constitutional rights watchdogs at the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina issued a new statement this morning regarding the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Here it is:

ACLU: Charlotte Police Must Release All Footage of Keith Lamont Scott Shooting; Disclosed Videos Raise Many Questions

CHARLOTTE – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina joins those calling on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) to publicly release all body and dash camera footage, as well as audio dispatch recordings, of the events surrounding the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old man with a traumatic brain injury, who, according to the Guardian’s database The Counted, was the 194th Black person killed by U.S. police this year.

On Saturday, the department released portions of body and dash camera footage showing the moments immediately before and after police shot and killed Mr. Scott. But the department has not released all the video footage of the moments leading up to and following the encounter, leaving many questions still unanswered.

Susanna Birdsong, Policy Counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, released the following statement:

“The videos released this weekend raise a host of questions about why police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, and whether, in doing so, the officers involved violated state or federal law, in addition to failing to follow the department’s own rules regarding the use of deadly force, de-escalation, when to wear and activate body cameras, and more.

“In the interest of full transparency, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police must stop releasing information to the public on a piecemeal basis and disclose all remaining body and dash camera footage, as well as audio of dispatch recordings, of the moments before and after Mr. Scott was killed. The public and Mr. Scott’s family deserve to see and hear all available information about whether something was in his hand and why a man who was suspected of no crime, other than the newly disclosed accusation that he possessed a minor amount of marijuana, is now dead.”

On the use of force: Read more