RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A state panel asked to recommend how to eliminate racial disparities in North Carolina’s criminal justice and court systems must be up to the task because the public wants solutions, Gov. Roy Cooper said on Friday.
Speaking at the first meeting of a task force he created in the weeks following George Floyd’s death and the resulting demonstrations nationwide, Cooper said members are sure to disagree while examining tough issues. He wants specific recommendations by Dec. 1 to local governments and legislators to address systemic racial bias.
“We are at a unique time. There is an opportunity here where I believe people have been the most receptive to change that they have ever been,” Cooper said in the video conference with the panel. “And it’s up to us to come forward with strong changes.”
More than 20 members serve on the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, including judges, law enforcement officers, elected officials and civil rights advocates. Attorney General Josh Stein and state Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls are the commission leaders.
Earls, a veteran civil rights leader before joining the court, proposed working groups to tackle issues. Topics likely to be considered include use of force standards, community policing, alternatives to arrests, pretrial release and the use of fines and fees on defendants.
Earls cited U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor while describing that unlawful, discriminatory police stops against certain people in society corrode civil liberties and threaten the lives of everyone.
“Those voices do matter and I know … that what courts decide makes a difference, and that it truly impacts all of us,” Earls said.