03 Szoka committee picEarlier this year when peaceful protests turned violent I recognized that there were questions affecting North Carolina that I didn’t know the answers to. Those deeply disturbing events that tore apart communities made it clear that our state needed answers.

Are chokeholds applied by law enforcement officers legal or illegal in North Carolina? Is there a duty for law enforcement officers to intervene when observing potential official misconduct? And the list went on.

I went to Speaker Moore and suggested he convene a House Select Committee to investigate these and other issues. He agreed and the House Select Committee on Community Relations, Law Enforcement and Justice was formed and I was appointed a Chairman.

This committee was unique in that it not only had legislative members but also reached into the community to ask non-legislators to be voting members of the committee.

Committee members ranged on both sides of the political spectrum and included governmental and special interest groups as well.

We began committee work in early September with the goal of creating a forum where lawmakers could listen to diverse voices across the state, seek understanding, and work toward making meaningful recommendations for transformative change.

During the committee process members heard from various stakeholders across North Carolina, solicited recommendations from committee members and the public, explored potential changes and eventually adopted the committee’s final recommendations.

I am proud to announce that on Dec. 14 the committee ended its work and in a historic, bi-partisan vote unanimously adopted the recommendations.

It was an honor to lead this committee and I am thankful for the hard work of the members that allowed us to recommend targeted, meaningful reforms in such a short time.

The final committee report includes thirteen recommendations for action-oriented policy solutions that reflect broad community and stakeholder agreement. Those recommendations are:
• Creating additional statewide law enforcement training requirements that include requiring crisis intervention training and implicit bias training; as well as providing additional resources to officers and agencies to complete the new requirement training.
• Requiring mandatory reporting requirements for law enforcement agencies for disciplinary actions, resignations, terminations and de-certifications.
• Creating whistle-blower protections for officers that report misconduct.
• Providing law enforcement with additional resources when encountering mental health issues in the field.
• Providing law enforcement with additional resources to receive mental health treatment.
• Reclassification of some lower level criminal offenses.
• Directing the Administrative Office of the Courts to examine whether each judicial district would benefit from the availability of specialty courts such as drug treatment or Veterans Courts.
• Banning the use of chokeholds.
• Requiring psychological evaluations for all public safety officers.
• Requiring law enforcement to report use of force incidents.
• Mandating the duty to intervene and the duty to report officer misconduct.
• Creating and funding a pilot program for high school student law enforcement career exploration.
• Creating a system to allow individuals to receive additional notification of court dates, to avoid additional Failure to Appear charges.

These committee recommendations will provide guidance for potential legislative action by future sessions of the North Carolina General Assembly. A full committee report can be found on the committee website at www.ncleg.gov/Committees/CommitteeInfo/HouseSelect/200

This committee report is just the beginning; I look forward to working during the upcoming session with fellow legislators to advance these policy recommendations into meaningful legislation.

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