State racial equity task force outlines recommendations, including decriminalizing marijuana, mandating body cameras

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice released its list of recommendations for Gov. Roy Cooper to consider, aimed at achieving racially fair outcomes and increase accountability of law enforcement and criminal justice systems.

Attorney General Josh Stein and Associate Justice Anita Earls, are co-chairs of the task force established in June 2020, after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others at the hands of law enforcement officers.

Stein said Monday that far too long Black and white people have not been treated equally.

“This failure has caused real harm,” said Stein of the disparity. “I’m grateful to every person who has worked on this Task Force, as well as people across the state who have volunteered their time and shared their experiences with us. Our report identifies opportunities for real change to make the criminal justice system fairer for every North Carolinian. I look forward to continuing this necessary work.” 

Much of the 123 recommendations listed would require legislative and state policy change, others would require task force collaboration.

Among the recommendations, the task force is advocating for marijuana decriminalization actions such as decriminalizing possession up to 1.5 ounces, deprioritize marijuana-related arrests and prosecution and create a task force to study to pros and cons and options for legalization of possession, cultivation and/or sale of marijuana.

“Today’s report is a next step towards the actions that North Carolina must take to end racial disparities in the criminal justice system, not the final word,” said Earls. “The implementation chart listing all the recommendations will help direct our work ahead and monitor our progress. I am grateful for the hundreds of people from diverse perspectives who gave us their best thinking on what needs to change; to be successful, we will need their continued involvement going forward.”

The task force also recommends that the governor seek to mandate use of body worn/dashboard cameras and increase the transparency of footage to enhance law enforcement accountability.

Actions to improve public safety would require funding grassroots organizations that employ promising and peaceful strategies to help communities promote public safety.

In addition to the issues and solutions it identifies, the Task Force provides the necessary actions required to successfully implement these solutions in North Carolina.

The task force’s racial equity recommendations fall into two primary categories: law enforcement and the courts.

Law enforcement recommendations include solutions to reimagine public safety, improve policing practices, enhance accountability, and strengthen recruitment, training, and the law enforcement profession.

Court recommendations include solutions to eliminate racial disparities in the courts and promote racial equity post-conviction.

These recommendations are only the task force’s first step. Over the next two years, the task force says it will work with policymakers and partners to implement these solutions.

Read the entire list of recommendations here.

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