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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Due Process

by Raul Pinto, Staff Attorney, ACLU-NCLF

Anyone who has ever been stopped by police officers on a state road can attest that it can be an unnerving experience.   The unsettling nature of a stop can be exacerbated if the driver believes that the officer’s biases played a role in the officer’s decision-making process.  Racial biases, conscious or unconscious, can be the most damaging because they create a perception that people are treated differently in the eyes of the law in violation of their civil rights.

The term “racially biased policing” was coined to cover overt discriminatory treatment of minorities, as well as subconscious biases that may affect police decision-making.  In 1999, North Carolina was at the forefront of recording data to prove or disprove whether minorities are stopped and searched at disproportionate rates by enacting a law requiring police to record demographic information about detained drivers.  Other states also adopted data collection as a tool to diagnose whether racially biased policing is a problem in their communities.  However, in North Carolina, recent analysis of the data collected as a result of the law gives cause for concern.

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RALEIGH, N.C. A complaint filed Wednesday, January 22 by Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Advocates for Children’s Services (ACS) and a coalition of local, state and national advocacy organizations, including the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, alleges a pattern of discrimination and unlawful criminalization caused by school policing policies and practices in the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS). 

The complaint was filed against the Wake County Sheriff’s Department, eight police departments in Wake County and the WCPSS, alleging violations under the U.S. Constitution, Titles IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. All eight students named in the Complaint are African-American and seven are students with disabilities (SWD). The complaint is one of the most comprehensive complaints ever filed about school policing and gets to the heart of a civil rights crisis impacting schools and communities across the country. It is being filed as a last resort after years of grievances, internal affairs complaints, meetings and other ignored pleas and unsuccessful advocacy measures. 

As the number of law enforcement officers patrolling WCPSS schools on a full-time basis – called school resource officers or SROs – has increased, so too has the percentage of delinquency complaints in Wake County that are school-based. During 2012-13, 42 percent of all delinquency complaints were school-based.

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CHARLOTTE – A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer shot and killed an unarmed man who was running toward him after being involved in a car accident Saturday morning. The officer has been charged with voluntary manslaughter.

In response, Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation, released the following statement:  

“The fatal shooting of Jonathan Ferrell by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer is profoundly tragic and deeply disturbing. As Chief Monroe stated this weekend, it is clear that the officer in question used excessive force. This tragic incident is a powerful reminder of why the citizens of Charlotte must have access to effective tools that will provide civilian review of police conduct and promote accountability within the department. There are two actions that Charlotte officials should take, without delay, to increase civilian oversight and make officers more accountable to the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect: First, the city should take immediate steps to reform its ineffectual Citizens Review Board, which in 15 years has held only four hearings and never once ruled against the police department or for a citizen complainant. Second, officials should treat any footage taken by the cameras now being worn by some CMPD officers to record their interactions with citizens as a public record and make these recordings accessible to the public. The citizens of Charlotte must be allowed to review the actions of their police officers in meaningful ways that will provide oversight, hold appropriate parties accountable, and make everyone in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area safer and more secure.”

By Joe McLean, ACLU-NC Legal Intern

When he signed the General Assembly’s budget on July 26, Governor Pat McCrory should have considered that he was further weakening the institution that protects one of our state’s most vulnerable populations – and, in doing so, the state may be violating a constitutional right.

Prisoner Legal Services is a non-profit law firm that is tasked with providing free legal assistance to people incarcerated by the Department of Corrections and responding to claims from more than 37,000 inmates in the state. The organization had its beginnings in 1986, after a federal court ordered North Carolina to create PLS to provide inmates with access to the court system. Throughout its history, PLS has sought justice for inmates who have no other options. In 2005, for example, the organization reached a settlement on behalf of women who were beaten and assaulted by other inmates while prison authorities did nothing. In 2009, PLS sued prison administrators to remedy pervasive problems of rape, groping, threatening, and humiliation of female inmates.

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