As a human being and an advocate for justice, I want us to never again be in a position where families and communities are shattered by illegal acts and unjustified excessive use of force by law enforcement officers. We must prevent irreparable harm. The health of our communities depends on it.
The North Carolina legislature should make it a crime for a police officer to fail to report another officer’s crimes — whether it be excessive use of force or another crime — to a neutral outside agency such as the District Attorney’s Office or the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.
North Carolina law already makes it mandatory to report child abuse. A person who knowingly or wantonly fails to report (child abuse) or prevents another person from making a report “is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor” (G.S. 7B-301(b)).
We know too well the harms of child abuse, and there’s a crime in North Carolina to ensure child abusers are reported. We see the irreparable harm police brutality causes its victims and communities. We need a similar criminal law to obligate police to report and prevent crimes by police.
Officers on-scene did nothing while [Minneapolis police officer Derek] Chauvin kneed George Floyd to death; their passivity is shocking. An officer’s failure to report a partner’s crimes should be a crime itself — to be criminally punished and require permanent forfeiture of an officer’s certification.
Too often, police crimes are reported only to police department “internal affairs” investigators and no one else. Functionally, the report is filed in a black box and is protected by personnel laws preventing disclosure and can later obstruct criminal prosecutions.
Proposal: It’s time lawmakers considered real police reform to put an end to the culture of the “Blue Wall of Silence.” Police and their lobbyists may not like it, but we must do all we can to ensure cases like the murder of George Floyd never happen again.
Enact a law requiring the police to report criminal acts perpetrated by other officers to an independent agency and make any failure to report those acts a crime.
— Todd Williams
Buncombe County District Attorney