RALEIGH — In the final days of 2022, Gov. Roy Cooper’s Racial Equity in Criminal Justice task force (TREC) released its 2022 report containing updates on the status of the group’s work.
TREC was created by Cooper in June 2020. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls are the co-chairs for the 24-member task force.
According to a press release by Stein, the task force was supposed to conclude in December 2022, but the governor extended the task force’s operation when he announced the appointments of North Carolina Department of Public Safety Secretary Eddie Buffaloe and Earls as co-chairs of the task force beginning in January 2023.
Per the release, Stein will continue to serve as a member of TREC.
“The progress we’ve made since the Task Force was formed in June 2020 is evidence of North Carolinians’ dedication to moving us closer to the ideal of ‘Equal Justice Under Law.’ By pursuing equality in our criminal justice system, we seek to have all North Carolinians treated with the dignity they deserve at the same time as we make the system more effective,” Stein and Earls wrote in the cover letter for the report to the governor.
The report contains updates on 125 recommendations the task force has been working on, all tagged with statuses ranging from success, partial success or in progress. After two years, 21 of TREC’s 125 recommendations are listed as a “success.” The vast majority remain listed as “in progress” and the remainder as “partial success.”
Success is considered to be a recommendation and/or necessary action that is complete. Partial Success is a recommendation that is “complete and additional effort is needed to fulfill the full recommendation or accomplish implementation.” In progress is self-explanatory and involves continued discussions with “stakeholders.”
The lengthy list of recommendations is broken down into subgroups that include Reimagining Public Safety; Improving Policing Practices; Enhancing Accountability; Strengthening Recruitment, Training and the Profession; Eliminating Racial Disparities in the Courts; Promoting Racial Equity Post-Conviction, as well as Criminal Justice Data Collection and Reporting.
The final recommendation on the task force’s list is to make TREC a “permanent, independent commission.”
Among the items listed as a success are topics like Community Policing, “Diversion” tactics, Encouraging citations and summons in lieu of arrest whenever possible.
Additionally, increasing transparency in officer discipline and decertification, forming a victim advisory group to “develop restorative justice programs” and other equity programs for crime victims, requiring “implicit bias and racial equity training for parole staff,” and efforts to “Collect data on law enforcement recruitment and diversity efforts” were listed as successes.
K-12 safety also made the list of recommendations with a focus on revising School Resource Officer (SRO) policies to include “personnel training on mental health, first aid, cultural competence/ diversity/inclusion, and developmental disability.”
Developing “inclusive processes for selecting and overseeing SROs” and encouraging citations and summons instead of an arrest “whenever possible” were also included.
A related set of recommendations are aimed at stemming the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline,” with one success in that area being the establishment of a juvenile review board within the Governor’s Clemency Office.
Other related recommendations included raising the minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 12 and giving prosecutors the discretion to accept pleas in juvenile court for juveniles charged with Class A through G felonies which the recommendation says is “in line with the Raise the Age Act.”
An additional recommendation included requiring school administrators or school social workers to sign a school-based petition initiated by an SRO before it can be accepted for filing in juvenile court.