Friday, 20 August 2021 12:02

Lawmakers on verge of sending criminal justice reform bill to governor

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Lawmakers on verge of sending criminal justice reform bill to governor RO file photo

RALEIGH — An omnibus criminal justice reform bill is on the verge of heading to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk after clearing the N.C. House in a nearly unanimous 100-2 vote on Wednesday, Aug. 18.

The measure — Senate Bill 300 — now heads back to the Senate for a concurrence vote. The Senate unanimously passed its version of the bill May 12.

The final version of S.B. 300 is a departure from earlier iterations that increased penalties for rioting or inciting a riot. Instead, lawmakers are running those provisions in a separate measure, House Bill 805, which is pending in the Senate Rules Committee.

Among other changes outlined in the bill summary, S.B. 300 would:

  • Create a public database of law enforcement officers’ suspensions and revocations.
  • Provide a process to have all LEO fingerprints entered into state and federal databases.
  • Require that LEOs receive training on mental health wellness strategies and require periodic psychological screenings.
  • Require law enforcement agencies to create an early warning system to monitor officer actions and behaviors, including discharge of a firearm, use of force, vehicle collisions, and citizen complaints.
  • Create a duty for LEOs to intervene and report excessive use of force by a colleague.
  • Raise penalties for resisting an officer if the proximate cause of serious injury to the officer is that resistance.
  • Direct the creation of public service announcements and social media campaigns on how to interact lawfully with law enforcement.
  • Revise bodycam footage release laws to allow quicker access to footage after a violent or deadly incident.

Under the bill, family members or representatives of a defendant may request footage from a law enforcement agency and that agency must respond within three business days. A judge will then review the video and decide within seven business days if it should be released. If a determination is made that the footage must be protected due to an ongoing investigation, that determination would be reviewed again within 20 business days.