Confused about police video and the law? Read this

In the wake of the deadly shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte and arguments over the release of the police video, it’s easy to get confused about the law – what it is, what it isn’t, how it’s changing.

Jonathan Jones, director of the non-partisan North Carolina Open Government Coalition cuts through some of that with this Q&A on police video and the law.

Jonathan Jones, director of the NC Open Government Coalition

Jonathan Jones, director of the NC Open Government Coalition

From the piece:

Q: So what is changing on Oct. 1?

A: At the request of several municipal governments, the General Assembly took up a bill this year to clarify the law on police videos and public records. The law primarily does four things. 1) It declares that police video is not subject to the personnel statutes. 2) It removes all police video, including body camera, dash camera and surveillance video, from the public record. 3) It creates a limited right of access for people who appear in videos to see the video, and an appeal process should they be denied. 4) It requires a court order for release of any video, and provides courts with some guidance as to when a video can be released.

Q: Will the new law cover videos recorded before Oct. 1?

A: Probably. The law is silent on whether or not it applies to videos made prior to Oct. 1. It is likely that any requests for video made after Oct. 1 will be subject to the new law.

The whole piece is well worth your time as we’re all going to be having these discussions for quite some time – and they aren’t likely to get more simple.


Rev. Barber on Charlotte: We must “mobilize to vote like never before” to combat systematic injustice

Rev. barber 2Rev. William Barber II, President of the North Carolina NAACP and, increasingly, a national leader on a raft of social justice issues, has authored a fine op-ed on the situation in Charlotte that appears on After pointing that there is much that we still do not know about the specifics of the most recent police shooting, Barber presents a list of things we do know that are clearly contributing to the unrest in Charlotte. Here are some excerpts from “Charlotte is Drowning in Systematic Injustice”:

“We know that the law, as written and enforced, cannot protect us from police violence. We know Darryl Hunt and Henry McCollum, two in a long list of African-American men wrongfully convicted in this state. We know our criminal justice system does not function to protect black life, but to control it.

We also know, since the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling on August 31st, that Governor Pat McCrory, former mayor of Charlotte, targeted African-Americans with ‘almost surgical precision’ when he signed a 2013 voter suppression bill. When the highest court in the land declared the law intentionally racist, McCrory made no apology. His party’s chairman doubled-down by trying to use the state Board of Elections to limit the number of polling places in areas where African-Americans generally vote.

We know that, despite the fact that it would benefit more poor white people than African Americans, our legislature has refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, denying health insurance to the most vulnerable among us, simply because they don’t like a black man in the White House.

We know that, while 56 percent of African-American workers make less than a living wage, Governor McCrory signed the mean-spirited HB2, which not only writes discrimination into state law but also forbids municipalities from passing a living wage ordinance or even measures to protect children in the workplace.

We know that our legislature, while touting an average increase in teacher pay, reduced total funding for public education and supported policies designed to undercut schools like the one Keith Scott’s son was coming home from on the bus when he lost his daddy.

We know that they increasingly funnel public money to private academies, which lend themselves to the resegregation of public education, even though we know segregation hurts poor kids.”

Barber also offers a powerful analogy to the instinctive behavior of a drowning person when reflecting on the recent unrest in the city:

“I am a pastor. I will not condemn grief. But I was trained as a lifeguard, and I learned a long time ago that when people are drowning, their instincts can kill them and anyone who tries to help them. If a lifeguard can get to a drowning person, the first thing the lifeguard says is, ‘Stop struggling. Let me hold you up in this water, and we can get to the shore together.’

The riots in Charlotte are the predictable response of human beings who are drowning in systemic injustice. We must all pray that no one else gets hurt. But we must understand why this is happening.”

And here’s his conclusion: Read more


Charlotte native and author: The white privilege he experienced growing up still controls

In the wake of Congressman Robert Pittenger’s insane observations yesterday about race in Charlotte, Charlotte Magazine is featuring a powerful essay this morning by a white, award winning novelist named David Joy who grew up working class in the city, but still experienced advantages time after time because of his skin color. It’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

Here’s are a couple of excerpts from “My Privilege, Our Problem”:

“I grew up where Freedom Drive dumps into ‘Tank Town’ in the heart of Charlotte’s west side. White as cigarette paper, I was a minority at every school I attended, from elementary school at Tuckaseegee, where classmates sold weed; to middle school in Camp Greene at Spaugh, where I was robbed at gunpoint; to Harding University High School, where I once witnessed a rich white kid who’d been bused across the city into Westerly Hills come outside on his lunch break to find the car his parents had bought him resting on cinder-blocks, his 20-inch rims long gone and sold. I tell you all of this to say that I grew up knowing and experiencing not only a racial divide, but a line drawn by class across that city. There were the haves and the have-nots, us falling to the latter, so I always knew the criminality around me was a result of poverty not race. It came from having nothing. And still, I understood I was lucky to be born the color I was. Maybe we were all poor, but I had an advantage: a skin tone camouflaged from police profile.”

And this on the shooting earlier this week:

“What bothers me is this: Whether he was reading a book or sitting in his car with a gun, whether the officer who shot him was white or black, Keith Lamont Scott should be alive and breathing and those seven children left behind should still have their father.

My family has been in North Carolina for centuries, settled around what became the city of Charlotte since the late 1600s. In this open-carry state, an 18-year-old can purchase an assault rifle and openly carry that weapon down Tyvola Road if he wants. And so long as he doesn’t pose a threat, he is within his legal rights to do so. Read more


As one NC politician apologizes for comments about protesters, another attempts to reframe #Charlotteprotests

Congressman Robert Pittenger is trying to walk back comments he made in a BBC interview Thursday in which he said the Charlotte protesters “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”

Pittenger was addressing questions about the reaction of protesters following the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

Pittenger, who represents part of Charlotte, later apologized for that interview tweeting that his anguish led him to respond to a reporter’s question in a way that he now regrets. Here are two of Pittenger’s follow-up comments on Twitter:

As Pittenger sought to clarify his statements, state Senator Jeff Jackson posted his impressions from Uptown Charlotte, focusing on the peaceful nature of Thursday night’s protests and the roll of local clergy:

jackson1 jackson2






















Charlotte has announced a midnight curfew for the Queen City.

In the meantime, the family of Keith Scott says it has more questions than answers.

Commentary, News

Another court challenge seeks to overturn NC’s partisan gerrymandering

As readers will recall, advocates at Common Cause NC filed a challenge to North Carolina’s politically gerrymandered congressional map back in August. Today, another complementary suit was filed by the good people at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Here is the news release that accompanied today’s filing:

Southern Coalition for Social Justice Files Data-Driven Partisan Gerrymandering Lawsuit 

Challenge adopts standard for measuring partisan advantage in redistricting

DURHAM, N.C. – The Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint today on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and numerous individual voters, arguing that North Carolina’s 2016 congressional redistricting plan violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. North Carolina’s 2016 redistricting plan was drafted during a special legislative session after a federal three-judge panel ruled that previous maps were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.

“The Constitution guarantees everyone’s right to participate equally in an electoral system that does not discriminate against them because of their beliefs,” said Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “It’s clear that the intent and effect of creating North Carolina’s 2016 congressional maps were to manipulate the democratic process. The result disparages voters and ensures that one party can maintain political power even when a majority of the state’s voters do not support them.”

In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court held that partisan gerrymandering claims present a legal controversy that courts could potentially resolve. However, to date, the court has not agreed on an acceptable standard to determine when a partisan gerrymander is unconstitutional. League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho offers an empirical analysis to demonstrate the extent to which an extreme gerrymander exists. That analysis is called the efficiency gap, which captures the packing and cracking among a plan’s districts in a single number.

Developed by Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee, the efficiency gap is the difference between the parties’ respective wasted votes in an election, divided by the total number of votes cast. Wasted votes are: (1) any vote cast for a losing candidate; and (2) votes cast for a winning candidate in excess of the number needed to win. More information about wasted votes and how efficiency gaps are calculated is below.

According to the complaint, North Carolina’s efficiency gaps in 2012 and 2014 “exhibited pro-Republican partisan biases larger than 25 percent—[] by far the worst in North Carolina’s modern history and at the far edge of the nationwide distribution.” (p. 16).

“When it comes to congressional districts, North Carolina’s are an extreme and egregious partisan gerrymander. Packing and cracking voters in districts based on their political ideology and voting history classifies voters in an invidious manner unrelated to any legitimate legislative objective,” said Gerry Hebert, Executive Director of the Campaign Legal Center. “Radical partisan gerrymandering like that in this case turns democracy on its head. For the sake of North Carolina voters and voters across our nation, this practice must come to an end. The implementation of our efficiency gap standard would go a long way in ensuring that every voter is entitled to equal protection under the law and having their voice heard.”

Click here to read the full complaint:

Supporting documents are here: Read more