In a special to the editorial board at the Charlotte Observer, Braxton Winston II, Charlotte City Councilman At-Large, highlighted criminal justice issues. Because of the money bail system, the majority of Charlotte’s jail population has not been convicted of a crime. They simply cannot pay bail. Additionally, African Americans are arrested at larger rates.
Winston also pointed to the promise of positive change with the election of District Attorney Spencer Merriweather. Merriweather won the primary and has no challenger for the position in November. The role of District Attorney is critical because of the power prosecutors have, such as deciding who gets charged and with what. In particular, Winston called attention to the power of the District Attorney to change the money bail system. Learn more here.
Trilium Resources is an Eastern North Carolina government agency that provides services concerned with mental health, substance abuse, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. In the wake of continued school shootings, it is providing mental health resources to schools and communities. Specifically, Trilium is working on educating the public, removing the stigma from mental illness, and connecting people in need of assistance with mental health providers. Read more here.
The Pretrial Justice Institute has released a report, “Where Pretrial Improvements are Happening,” about progress being made in improving pretrial practices. In an interview, Cherise Fanno Burdeen, the CEO of the Pretrial Justice Institute, talked about these issues within North Carolina. Burdeen pointed out the cash-bail system, the for-profit bail bond industry, and pre-trail services that vary by county and are generally underfunded. However, the report also identifies movement within the state toward reform. For example, judges have been using their power for reform within existing statutes. Ultimately, the report calls for a pretrial risk assessment tool to replace cash-bail. Burdeen noted that real reform will come from state law changes and changes from higher courts. Learn more here.
Judge A. Graham Shirley of Wake County has ordered certain video and audio recordings from the Wake County Sheriff department, Raleigh police department, and state troopers to be released. They are now available to be viewed by the public.
They are from the body and dashboard cameras of officers who responded to calls that a man was standing in the middle of North Raleigh Boulevard on April 3. These officers have been accused of beating Kyron Dwain Hinton, 29, with flashlights and a police dog. Hinton said that he had a broken eye socket and nose, 21 bite marks and cuts on his head after the incident.
Officer Cameron Broadwell of Wake County and NC Highway Patrol Troopers Michael Blake and Tabithia Davis have been indicted by a grand jury. The video and audio recordings are highly disturbing. Hinton has said that although he was upset at the time, he made no threats. Some of the officers’ attorneys have requested that the 9/11 calls and radio traffic between law enforcement also be made public. The Carolina Justice Policy Center continues to advocate for Mr. Hinton, and hopes that the incident will serve as a catalyst for greater police accountability. Learn more here.
The Asheville City Council has voted to make three changes to how police can search drivers or pedestrians. The most significant requires that police receive written permission before they search someone, unless they have “probable cause” to believe a crime has been committed. Additionally, the grounds for valid searches were restricted, and regulatory stops like traffic stops were de-emphasized.
While advocates hope that these changes will help curb stops on innocent drivers, law enforcement advocates caution that it could limit effectiveness of police in the midst of a drug epidemic. Advocates in favor of the changes also have pointed to data that clearly shows a racial disparity in traffic stops in Asheville. The changes come in the wake of a Black pedestrian being beaten by a police officer in Asheville, an event that has caused friction locally and garnered national attention. Learn more here.