Gov. Cooper establishes new racial equity task force

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks during a briefing at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, N.C. Photo via NC Dept. of Public Safety

RALEIGH – Gov. Roy Cooper signed a new executive order today, forming the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice. The task force will recommend solutions to stop discriminatory law enforcement and criminal justice practices, and hold public safety officers accountable.

“We must acknowledge racial inequities in our systems of law enforcement and criminal justice, and then work to eliminate them. This task force will address policies and procedures that disproportionately burden communities of color,” said Gov. Cooper, who previously served as the state’s attorney general for 16 years.

This task force will be led by Attorney General Josh Stein and North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls and will develop and help implement policy solutions to address what the governor calls systemic racial bias in criminal justice and submit legislative and municipal recommendation  on or before December 1, 2020.

Additionally, the order creates a Center for the Prevention of Law Enforcement Use of Deadly Force within the State Bureau of Investigation to track statistics and improve training related to the use of force.

“We can stop the use of excessive force by police and we know what is needed to achieve racial equity, now is the time to put that knowledge to work,” said Associate Justice Anita Earls. “I am grateful to the governor and the Attorney General for recognizing that the Judicial Branch has a crucial role to play in eliminating racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and I am committed to a collaborative process with meaningful community involvement to achieve those goals in short order.”

“The Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice will consider and implement strategies to bring about real change in the criminal justice system. For way too long, Black people have not been treated equitably in the United States. We have to fix that,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. “I look forward to working closely with co-chair Justice Anita Earls and the full Task Force to making North Carolina a safe place for every person, no matter who you are.”

State Sens. Danny Britt (R-Robeson) and Warren Daniel (R-Burke), who co-chair the Senate Judiciary Committee said “Gov. Roy Cooper’s task force is an exercise in political cowardice. It permits him, as he did today during his pre-screened press conference, to avoid taking positions on any politically challenging issues, instead passing off responsibility to his new task force.”

The Senators noted that the task force isn’t due until after the November election, which they say make a mockery of the public and the press with barely-concealed covering actions.

“By contrast, the Republican-led legislature has and will continue to take action on criminal justice reform. We passed into law Raise the Age and are advancing the First Step Act and Second Chance Act. “What exactly was Governor Cooper doing during his 16 years as this state’s top law enforcement officer, and his time before that as chair of the Judiciary Committee?”

Citizens interested in being on the task force can visit the governor’s website to apply.