Gov. Cooper's new Racial Equity Task Force promises to turn words into action against systemic racism
This comes as more Black men continue to lose their lives at the hands of law enforcement. The most recent tragedy is Andrew Brown Jr. of Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
"If white individuals and their kids were being brutalized and murdered at the same rate that Black individuals are at the hands of police, we'd see extreme amounts of legislation come down the pipeline to hold these actions accountable," said Raleigh activist Kerwin Pittman.
At the height of the George Floyd movement, Pittman's calls for political and social reform earned him a spot on Governor Cooper's Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice.
Pittman works with EmancipateNC. He traveled three hours to Elizabeth City in support of Andrew Brown's family, friends and community members as he was laid to rest Monday, May 3. Pittman believes Brown would still be alive if the recommendations had bi-partisan support.
Calls for justice at funeral for Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City
"What's taking so long is bi-partisan politics games to be frank and honest with you. There are legislators who want to block or hinder progression when it comes to holding these individuals accountable just because they are loyal to a particular associatiohttps://abc11.com/society/calls-for-justice-at-funeral-for-andrew-brown-jr-in-elizabeth-city/10572661/n," said Pittman.
The 24-member task force has made 125 recommendations aimed at enhancing accountability, eliminating racial disparities, promoting equity and strengthening community policing practices. Some of them include mandating body-cams for all law enforcement agencies, requiring police recordings of critical incidents be publicly released within days of the incident, a ban on chokeholds and the creation of a use of force database, which prevents officers habitually reported for use of force from being hired by another law enforcement agency.
Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin is also a member of the task force.
"For the community it says we are being fully transparent with the way we do things. I think that is a necessary piece with building trust. We're looking at what's happening in Elizabeth City and in order for us to end that and to move our state forward we need to work together," said Colvin.
Some of the policies can be executed on a local level, but the majority of them require support from lawmakers.
ABC11 reached out to Republican lawmakers on Monday for comment and received the following statement from Sen. Danny Britt on Tuesday:
"It's unfortunate that Gov. Cooper chose to exclude all Republican legislators from his 'commission.' That's usually an indication that consensus problem-solving is not a goal.
"Nevertheless, we've taken the recommendations at face value and just today a bill I sponsored that adopts some of the proposals is advancing through committee.
"Over the past several years, the Republican-led legislature has enacted historic criminal justice reforms, including Raise the Age, the Second Chance Act, and the First Step Act, which overturned the mandatory minimum sentences imposed by then-Sen. Roy Cooper.
"We expect to continue that work."