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Cooper signs police reform, oversight legislation

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a series of law enforcement reform legislation into law Thursday.

Senate Bill 300 makes resisting arrest while causing serious injury to an officer a felony and increases police oversight. Two other pieces of legislation Cooper signed Thursday also call for police reforms.

“I think all of us know that our criminal justice system needs attention. That we need to strive every single day to make sure that our criminal justice system works, free of bias and racial discrimination,” Cooper said during a bill signing ceremony.

Cooper and legislative leaders vowed to make changes to the justice system after summer protests in 2020. National civil unrest erupted on Memorial Day Weekend last year and continued through the summer in response to the police killing of Black Americans. As a result, Cooper and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, launched task forces to develop law enforcement and criminal justice reforms. Lawmakers put forward the pieces of legislation.

House Bill 436 and SB 300 require new mental health and wellness training and psychological screenings for law enforcement officers. With the signing of HB 436, officers will be educated on maintaining good mental health and mental health resources. The state also will launch a study on the benefits of physical fitness testing of officers.

SB 300 goes further by requiring FBI criminal background checks for officers. It also creates an “early warning” system to track and document use-of-force incidents. Officials would be required to create a public database of officers facing suspensions and revocations.

Starting on Jan. 1., immediate family members will be able to see video footage within three business days after a serious police incident that results in death or serious injury after a request to the courts.

Lawmakers pushed for the change after the case of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man killed in April by Pasquotank County deputies. Officials stalled the release of the body-camera footage, amplifying outrage over the incident.

House Bill 536 requires law enforcement officers to intervene and report excessive use of force by other officers. It also requires every officer applying for certification or a transfer to be screened through the National Decertification Index.

HB 536 and HB 436 received unanimous support in the General Assembly. SB 300 was unanimously approved in the Senate. Democrat Reps. James Roberson of Wake County and Raymond Smith Jr. of Wayne County voted against the measure in the House.

This article was originally posted on Cooper signs police reform, oversight legislation

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