RALEIGH, N.C. - This afternoon the N.C. Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 300, Criminal Justice Reform, sending the bill to Governor Cooper's desk. If signed into law, the measure would update several aspects of the state’s oversight of police and the criminal legal system but would not significantly address issues of transparency, police accountability, and racial equity.
SB 300 establishes several law enforcement oversight databases and training requirements, limits the ability of local governments to create criminal offenses, facilitates a review of the criminal code by a bipartisan working group, and ensures that people who are arrested and held in jail get timely access to a court hearing. However, this bill represents a missed opportunity to transformatively address systemic racism in North Carolina's criminal legal system. For example, the police oversight provisions in the bill generally bar public access to critical information, undermining the opportunity for real accountability.
Daniel Bowes, director of policy and advocacy for the ACLU of North Carolina, issued the following statement after the Senate passage of SB 300:
“SB 300 makes several meaningful changes to law enforcement oversight and criminal procedures and gained widespread bipartisan support among legislators and law enforcement, but it did so without addressing the systemic racism that underpins our criminal legal system.
"The law enforcement training and oversight provisions in SB 300 rely on and perpetuate the falsehoods that the failings of the criminal legal system are the result of ‘a few bad apples’ and that the police can police themselves.
“Powerful law enforcement special interest groups, including the NC Conference of District Attorneys and the NC Sheriff’s Association, have used all of their resources to prevent crucial criminal justice reforms from advancing in North Carolina in SB 300 and many other bipartisan bills this session. It's a shame that politics and special interests prevent our state from making the transformative changes that our communities desperately need."