NC sheriffs say uniform use-of-force policies, more training to improve law enforcement professionalism

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Sheriffs from across North Carolina say some changes need to be made statewide to create uniform use-of-force policies, establish more training, and rebuild communities’ trust in law enforcement.

The North Carolina Association of Sheriffs released a 30-page report Tuesday, outlining ways to improve in law enforcement professionalism through reform following the death of George Floyd and civil unrest across the state this summer.

Read the full report

“The Association recognizes that some communities have lost confidence in law enforcement. To those individuals, the very few bad actors in our profession make it difficult to trust anyone who wears a badge. As sheriffs, the recommendations we make in this report are in an effort to create a law enforcement profession that will not tolerate racism and excessive force by law enforcement, and that will hold North Carolina law enforcement to a high standard,” the report states.

The report was put together by a group of 13 sheriffs from across North Carolina that met six different times and heard presentations from several experts on hiring, training and policy in regard to use of force, ethics, and race.

The report was given to all 100 sheriffs for comment and approved unanimously by the NCSA Executive Committee.  

The report includes specific recommendations to better educate and train law enforcement officers to the highest standards. 

Some of the recommendations will require funding, but many do not.   

“We believe improving law enforcement professionalism through the recommendations included in thisreport will help to eradicate those few in our profession who do not uphold the same standards. We commit to hiring and employing only those who are truly fit for the law enforcement profession,” the report states.

According to the report, the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Education and Training Standards Commission and the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission each set minimum standards for entry.

The NCSA suggests creating uniform minimum standards, such as requiring applicants to be 21 years old, and pass a psychological screening within one-year before certification with follow-up screenings at least every three years.

The report recommends greater transparency between agencies in regards to personnel records to cut down on “gypsy” law enforcement officers who engage in misconduct, then are allowed to resign and move on to another agency without them being aware of the previous misconduct.

According to the report, there is not a uniform definition of the term “use of force” statewide. 

The NCSA recommends legislation to allow for the collection of data on when law enforcement officers use of deadly force, and actions of the person which caused the law enforcement officer to use of force.

The NCSA also supports the additional training for law enforcement officers regarding use of force.

The report also recommends uniform policy standards banning chokeholds and other tactics that restrict oxygen or blood flow to the head or neck, unless authorized.

Uniform policy regarding law enforcement officers’ duty to intervene to stop another officer from using excessive force is also suggested.

According to the report, North Carolina currently requires a minimum of 640 of basic training for entry-level law enforcement officers.

The NCSA suggests a study examining the feasibility of centralizing basic law enforcement training with an in-residence program at the North Carolina Justice Academy’s campuses to improve the quality and consistency.

The report recommends revising that training to include 40 hours of crisis intervention training, civil unrest training and more scenario-based training to give cadets more practical experience.

The NCSA suggests every law enforcement agency in the state be required to maintain accreditation to ensure statewide adoption of minimum and uniform standards for use of force, chokeholds, duty to intervene, and conduct, among others. 

The NCSA would like to see legislation so if an agency does not receive accreditation, it would be ineligible to receive grants from the Governor’s Crime Commission or Highway Safety Program.

According to the report, law enforcement officers routinely encounter individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, but state law limits an officer’s options to help these individuals.  Often, officers take these individuals into custody because there is no other place to take them.

The report recommends legislation to provide more funding to make mental health and substance abuse resources more readily available in North Carolina. 

As well as shift transportation of someone under an involuntary commitment order from law enforcement officers to mental health professionals.

One area in which the NCSA says no improvement is needs is for School Resource Officers.  The NCSA says SROs are valuable assets in schools, and supporting keeping the assignment of SROs as a local decision.

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