Emancipate NC, a project of Carolina Justice Policy Center (CJPC), is a statewide criminal justice policy center.  In reviewing the cell phone footage of the incident involving 18 year old girl, T’Ziah Kelly, we cannot find any justifiable reason for the level of violence displayed by the deputy, nor should any reasonable civilian or law enforcement officer. No amount of context can change the problem with the degree of anger and violence displayed by the deputy in question. Even if the position of the Wayne County Sheriff is that previous interactions somehow justify the need to detain and escort Miss Kelly from the fair, it rings hollow without an acknowledgment that punching a detained person in the face is ALWAYS excessive. Carrying a badge does not give one the authority to be abusive or stray from standard training. 

Sheriff Pierce is a principled law enforcement officer, who has taken steps to be transparent and fair.  However, part of repairing the breech of trust between law enforcement and the community requires a fair and balanced response from elected officials when blatant misconduct presents itself. While Miss Kelly could have responded differently in the moment, it is the deputy’s job to respond with professionalism and respect every time he or she interacts with the community. The law enforcement community are professionals.  They must be held to that standard at all times.  The punching of a young woman can not be considered professional.  That lack of professionalism must be called out by other law enforcement officers to reestablish trust. 

Emancipate NC is calling for a review of the training deputies receive for interacting with agitated citizens and the appropriate disciplinary action to be taken against the deputy in question.

Read official news coverage and watch video at ABC 11.

Emancipate NC was founded in 2019 on the knowledge that mass incarceration and structural racism harm all of us. Prison is state-sponsored violence. We are all complicit in its harms. As an organization, we are dedicated to shifting the narrative on racialized mass incarceration through community education and mobilization. The mainstream narrative that criminalizes Black and Brown people must be transformed—so that we can all get free.  Emancipate NC is a project of the Carolina Justice Policy Center. To learn more, please contact Dawn Blagrove at dawn@emancipatenc.org.