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RALEIGH – After obtaining and analyzing thousands of documents from police departments around the country, today the American Civil Liberties Union released the report War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing. The ACLU focused on more than 800 SWAT raids conducted by law enforcement agencies in 20 states, including North Carolina, and on the agencies’ acquisition of military weaponry, vehicles, and equipment.

“We found that police overwhelmingly use SWAT raids not for extreme emergencies like hostage situations but to carry out such basic police work as serving warrants or searching for a small amount of drugs,” said Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel with the ACLU’s Center for Justice. ”Carried out by ten or more officers armed with assault rifles, flashbang grenades, and battering rams, these paramilitary raids disproportionately impacted people of color, sending the clear message that the families being raided are the enemy. This unnecessary violence causes property damage, injury, and death.”

The majority (79 percent) of deployments the ACLU studied were for the purpose of executing a search warrant, most commonly in drug investigations. Only 7 percent were for hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios. The report documents multiple tragedies caused by police carrying out needless SWAT raids, including a 26-year-old mother shot with her child in her arms and a 19-month-old baby critically injured when a flashbang grenade landed in his crib.

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RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a North Carolina case the U.S. Supreme Court will hear this fall that asks whether a traffic stop based on a police officer’s mistaken understanding of traffic laws violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

The ACLU's amicus brief, submitted with ACLU of North Carolina, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Cato Institute, argues that a mistake of law can never supply the reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing that the Fourth Amendment requires in order to justify a traffic stop.

“Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for motorists, and it shouldn’t be an excuse for the police, either,” said ACLU-NC Legal Director Chris Brook.

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by Raul Pinto, Staff Attorney, ACLU-NCLF

Anyone who has ever been stopped by police officers on a state road can attest that it can be an unnerving experience.   The unsettling nature of a stop can be exacerbated if the driver believes that the officer’s biases played a role in the officer’s decision-making process.  Racial biases, conscious or unconscious, can be the most damaging because they create a perception that people are treated differently in the eyes of the law in violation of their civil rights.

The term “racially biased policing” was coined to cover overt discriminatory treatment of minorities, as well as subconscious biases that may affect police decision-making.  In 1999, North Carolina was at the forefront of recording data to prove or disprove whether minorities are stopped and searched at disproportionate rates by enacting a law requiring police to record demographic information about detained drivers.  Other states also adopted data collection as a tool to diagnose whether racially biased policing is a problem in their communities.  However, in North Carolina, recent analysis of the data collected as a result of the law gives cause for concern.

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RALEIGH, N.C. A complaint filed Wednesday, January 22 by Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Advocates for Children’s Services (ACS) and a coalition of local, state and national advocacy organizations, including the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, alleges a pattern of discrimination and unlawful criminalization caused by school policing policies and practices in the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS). 

The complaint was filed against the Wake County Sheriff’s Department, eight police departments in Wake County and the WCPSS, alleging violations under the U.S. Constitution, Titles IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. All eight students named in the Complaint are African-American and seven are students with disabilities (SWD). The complaint is one of the most comprehensive complaints ever filed about school policing and gets to the heart of a civil rights crisis impacting schools and communities across the country. It is being filed as a last resort after years of grievances, internal affairs complaints, meetings and other ignored pleas and unsuccessful advocacy measures. 

As the number of law enforcement officers patrolling WCPSS schools on a full-time basis – called school resource officers or SROs – has increased, so too has the percentage of delinquency complaints in Wake County that are school-based. During 2012-13, 42 percent of all delinquency complaints were school-based.

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