NC public safety secretary says state's upcoming reforms are a start but systemic racism goes beyond policing

Joel Brown Image
Wednesday, June 10, 2020
NC Public Safety Secretary talks police reform, use of force with ABC11
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NC Public Safety Secretary talks police reform, use of force with ABC11

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Last week, Raleigh's mayor committed to a transparent review of police policies and police violence.

City leaders took a big first step on that front Tuesday night.

At their work session, Raleigh city councilors made their first move toward reforming the city's police force since George Floyd's death under the knee of an officer outraged the world.

They signed on to all of the "8 Can't Wait" strategies to reduce police use of force, including the bans on chokeholds, shooting at moving vehicles and de-escalating situations verbally instead of physically.

Raleigh Police Department taking steps to ban chokeholds, adopt 8 Can't Wait policies

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"There is clearly room to improve this policy as well, as there are other opportunities where de-escalation may be a greater advantage where there is on issue of force at all," Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown told the panel in their virtual meeting.

At the Emergency Operations Center, earlier Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper called Floyd's death a "defining moment for justice reform."

Gov. Cooper creates racial equity task force assigned to eliminate racism in criminal justice system

He announced his creation of a task force for racial equity in criminal justice.

"For black people, the past several weeks have again ripped open scars created by generations of historical trauma," Cooper said.

The task force will be headed up by Attorney General Josh Stein and State Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls.

The 25-member panel is tasked to make recommendations to the governor on ending racial disparities on the police and prosecution side of the system.

The governor's secretary of the state Department of Public Safety, Erik Hooks, spoke to ABC11 after sending a memo to the Highway Patrol, SBI and all state police agencies under his purview -- directing them to review use of force guidelines and to ensure every officer knows they have a duty to report officer abuse of a suspect.

"(I was) very angry. It was reprehensible what we saw on that video," Hooks said when asked about his personal reaction to the George Floyd tape. "We need to make sure that we articulate the duty to intervene when (North Carolina peace officers) see something is wrong."

ABC11 asked Hooks about the call from activists for officials to give more than lip service to substantial police reform.

"I think (my memo and the governor's executive order) are part of the overall solution. Because the systemic and structural racism that we see go beyond policing," Hooks said. "There also needs to be heavier investments in communities. Because sometimes the police presence in a community is due to the lack of investment and lack of opportunities in a community."

The governor gave his task force on justice reform until December 1 to submit its recommendations.

Some state Senate Republicans are criticizing the move -- accusing the governor of trying to avoid taking tough positions on tough issues during his fall reelection campaign.