Demonstrators began gathering Monday, several days after NC lawmakers passed a bill that could shield records of police custody deaths from the public.
No sooner had the word “Abolish” — painted on Cabarrus Street in front of the Downtown Raleigh police precinct by unknown demonstrators — been scrubbed clean when another protest against purported police overreach flared up a little over a mile away.
Dozens of demonstrators started gathering at the Governor’s Mansion Monday night to protest a bill that could block public access to records pertaining to people who have died in police custody, The Raleigh News & Observer reported.
Activists claimed Senate Bill 168 would target the Black Lives Matter movement by only reducing police transparency, and little more than a month after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
The bill was passed nearly unanimously in the early morning Saturday by the state Senate and House after a lengthy legislative session. The NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reportedly requested the legislation, which includes technical revisions to DHHS-related laws.
But tucked away in the bill was language that would exclude a medical examiner’s investigation of a death in police custody from public records law. Medical examiners’ records are typically public records.
“It’s been an exercise in suppression,” protestor Taari Coleman told WTVD. “It basically restricts access to medical records for anyone in police custody, and a lot of scary things can happen to people in police custody.”
“Anything can happen to you while you’re in police custody and the public will have no way to understand exactly what the medical records are,” Coleman said. “That means Kyron Hinton’s autopsy would not be available to the public.”
Hinton died in February, a day after receiving an $83,000 settlement from Wake County, stemming from an arrest in April 2018. Police bodycam footage released in May 2018 showed Hinton being beaten by a Wake County sheriff’s deputy and North Carolina state troopers, while the deputy’s K-9 partner also mauled him during a traffic stop.
Hinton’s death, unrelated to the assault, was initially ruled as a drug overdose. It was subsequently reclassified as a homicide.
A spokesperson for Gov. Roy Cooper said Monday the governor would “review the legislation,” but did not say whether the bill would be vetoed or signed into law.
The case has even attracted attention outside of NC, including from the rapper Ice Cube.
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