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Civil rights leader pushing for citizens review board for Wilmington law enforcement

Published: Mar. 9, 2015 at 2:34 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 13, 2015 at 4:53 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Sonya Patrick, a New Hanover County representative of the North Carolina Black Leadership Caucus, is currently trying to bring a citizens review board for law enforcement activity to the Port City.

Patrick said she plans to support state legislation that would require multiple cities in North Carolina to get review boards.

Citizens have

for these law enforcement review groups across the state.

"It will build confidence in the law enforcement when you know all the facts and maybe some cases the community will see it one way and the reality may be another way. I think the citizen's review board would help bring light to those situations," Patrick said in an interview Monday.

Patrick explained the board would likely include five to 10 members that would be appointed by local leaders. She said that multiple community shootings involving law enforcement officers have made the review board a necessity.

"I think it's almost necessary, because the system has to change and part of the system changing is having a citizen's review board," the activist explained.

She cited several situations in the area that have sparked unrest among the public including a shootout that left two young suspects dead after an attempted robbery at a Pizza Hut.

"We have Ferguson. We have Mike Brown. We have a lot of cases right here in New Hanover County and justice has not been given to the families. There's still a lot of discontent in the community and a lot of healing has not taken place and the system has to change," Patrick explained.

Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said the creation of such a board would require the approval of elected officials.

"That's the elected leaders' decision to make. That's in their court," said Evangelous in a phone conversation Monday.

Lt. Jerry Brewer with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office said that implementing a review board would not be legal since an officer or deputy's personnel information would be released to the public and that would be against the law.

Dr. Earl Sheridan, a Wilmington City Council member said he would rather bring back a human relations commission designed to look at race relations in multiple parts of the community. He said this would include housing, education and law enforcement.

"Certainly one of these committees would be a committee that would look at police community relations. I think that would be the way to go rather than a more narrow view of looking at a review board," Sheridan explained.

Sheridan said this commission was a part of the local government structure for several years until it was disbanded during the recent recession.

Patrick said she has been in contact with local leaders about the review board proposal, but has not heard about any official plans in the works.

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