Proposal for More NC Police Training – Lawmakers, Police and Municipalities Lay Groundwork
August 31, 2016
North Carolina’s black lawmakers have launched an initiative to provide more extensive training for law enforcement.
The Legislative Black Caucus, N.C. League of Municipalities and more than 150 police commanders met last month in Raleigh to review training and tactics, including use of deadly force. From that forum, Sen. Joel Ford of Charlotte, a co-convener of the conference, said steps will be taken to introduce a bill for additional training next year when the General Assembly convenes.
“It was very productive and enlightening,” Ford said, “understanding the premise, the backdrop to pull together law enforcement statewide and look at some of the best practices and opportunities to implement those best practices into legislation so we can standardize those across the state.”
Said Rep. Kelly Alexander of Charlotte, who attended the meeting. “We weren’t talking at each other. We were talking to each other about training, what can be done to improve training and how it might relate to some of the topical issues of the day.”
Ford and Rep. Ed Hanes of Winston-Salem called for the meeting in the wake of last week’s deadly police-civilian confrontations in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas. The meeting included the Highway Patrol, State Sheriff’s Association, community college system and the Governor’s Office.
Training time was a point of emphasis. To earn a barber’s license in North Carolina, a candidate must complete 1,000 hours of training, Ford said. For law enforcement, it’s 616.
“It takes more training to have a hot comb in your hand than a weapon,” Ford said. “That was truly a shock.”
The caucus wants to establish a program for improving officer training and de-escalating confrontations before deadly force is considered and used. The U.S. Justice Department drafted guidelines for police training and tactics after finding systemic racism throughout Ferguson, Missouri’s mostly-white police force against black residents. The review was ordered after Darren Wilson, a white officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, in 2014.
Recent deadly confrontations between African Americans and police like the 2013 Jonathan Ferrell shooting, in which a jury deadlocked on whether to convict Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer Randall Kerrick of killing the unarmed Ferrell, have raised awareness of the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
The caucus held a similar meeting with police leaders before, Ford said, but partnering with the League of Municipalities broadened the participation to locally-elected leaders.
“That changed the dynamic of the participants and the conversation,” he said. “Ultimately, in order for us to be able to get anything legislatively done, we’re going to have to have not only bipartisan but geographical and regional support creating reform in law enforcement and community policing.”
Another area of concern is de-escalation training. Some departments teach officers how to lower the intensity in confrontations while others don’t.
“I was surprised to learn some training modules do little to nothing to help officers de-escalate situations,” Alexander said. “They do a whole lot to teach them how to use appropriate force, but very little about how to de-escalate. De-escalation, at its most basic, is how you talk to people in ways to help calm situations.”
Lawmakers have drafted bipartisan legislation to address police hiring, screening, and misconduct complaints filed by civilians, which some municipalities, like Charlotte, have done on a local level. Ford said there’s growing support for better training across the state as well.
“Those of us who are geographically positioned as well as politically positioned want to see this happen,” he said.
Alexander added: “You’ve got to have police executives pushing it, you’ve got to have the league pushing it and the legislature pushing it. Having this meeting is like step one Is this kind of legislation appropriate? The answer is yes.”