NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - A Wilmington lawmaker is working to pass a bill that would make it easier for law-enforcement agencies to track troubled officers in North Carolina. It would also track others who never got in trouble, but may have exhibited warning signs that could indicate future trouble.
Senate Bill 300, titled Criminal Justice Reform, would create a database that law-enforcement agencies across the state could use to track disciplinary infractions and decertifications. That information is technically available now, but the details can be cumbersome for agencies to access.
“Right now, if you were in a sheriff’s office in New Hanover County, and you had a deputy that maybe went to Buncombe County, Buncombe County would not have access to those personnel records,” Sen. Michael Lee, the bill co-sponsor explained. “So what it does is allows these different law enforcement agencies the ability, although it’s still confidential for employment records, it lets these law enforcement agencies share information. "
The bill would allow hiring agencies to track incidents where an officer had discharged their weapon, or used deadly force or seriously injured someone in the line of duty. Those actions would not necessarily show up on a background search if the officer was cleared and no disciplinary action was taken. Still, it could be helpful for a hiring agency to be aware of.
“We’ve got great law enforcement officers that put their lives on the line every single day. But what we do need to do is still kind of look to see if there are any issues that come up with any particular law enforcement officers, and what this bill hopes to do is kind of figure that out a little earlier,” Lee said.
Any officer with a Giglio violation that prevented them from serving as a state witness in court would also be tracked, and the bill would require mental health screenings for officers as well.
Incidents like the one where George Floyd was killed by police prompted the North Carolina Governor and Attorney General to form task forces that recommended this type of screening. We should know in the next few weeks if this bill has enough support to move forward.