Civil rights, social justice advocates to push Normal Meeting to make police reforms | The Newest from WDEL Information

The Delaware ACLU is urging Delaware lawmakers to take immediate action to amend the Bill of Rights (LEOBR) of law enforcement officers prior to the end of the legislative session.

In a virtual press conference on Tuesday, ACLU executive director Mike Brickner described the Derek Chauvin verdict as “a step toward accountability.” But he and civil rights and social justice attorneys are now calling for police accountability in Delaware. Brickner called the campaign an “all hands on deck” moment during a “major emergency” to change LEOBR over the next two and a half months.

“We need to make fundamental structural changes to the way we police work here in Delaware and across the country, and it is time for reform,” he said.

Mike Brickner

Mike Brickner, executive director of the ACLU of Delaware

Last summer, members of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus stood on the steps of the Legislative Hall unveiling their Agenda for Justice for All, which included requests for changes to LEOBR to protect police officers from public scrutiny in cases of misconduct and violence.

Proposed changes to LEOBR that lawmakers are reportedly working on include changes to the discipline of officials and the public in this process. In June last year, lawmakers also tried to give criminal defendants or their legal counsel access to internal investigative records of law enforcement officers charged with wrongdoing. Currently, police misconduct records are protected from the public. The LEOBR reform efforts are supported by Attorney General Kathy Jennings.

These proponents are not the first to say that reform efforts are moving too slowly. Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force (LEATF) subcommittee member Mariann Kenville-Moore sent a letter to members of other subcommittees earlier this month expressing a lack of confidence in the process.

“I know I could preach here and I apologize, but I just ask that we all commit to doing this as soon as possible,” she said. “I know it won’t be perfect for everyone, but it just feels like we’re moving at a snail’s pace when we really need to move with the utmost urgency.”

Brickner repeated these concerns.

“They’ve been studying these topics in Delaware for almost a year, hearing from community experts, from police experts, what’s needed here in this state, but we can’t wait any longer for reforms. Time is running out There will be changes in the legislature in the year 2021, and we need changes now, “said Brickner.

Law enforcement officers serve on various subcommittees of the Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force.

University of Delaware Police Chief Patrick Ogden, Delaware State University Police Chief Harry Downes, and Delaware State Police Captain Joshua Bushweller all voted “no” to a proposed recommendation by the Law Enforcement Task Force in Delaware to propose changes to the LEOBR

The other 12 members of the Subcommittee on Policing and Community Engagement voted “yes”.

“I don’t think there are many other professions that, when there is an internal process for discipline, become widespread,” Ogden said before the vote last month.

Jamie Leonard

Jamie Leonard, President of the Delaware State FOP Lodge

Jamie Leonard, president of the fraternal police force at Delaware State Lodge, said law enforcement supports sensible police reform, not radical police reform.

“The FOP recognizes that times have changed and we recognize that this bill was drawn up back in the 1990s and time has moved on. But what has not really developed and what has not really changed globally, is the need to protect the due process and that is ultimately the crux of what we are trying to do in the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights … it does not mean protecting those who do not deserve protection, hiding those who do don’t deserve to be police “Just a system very similar to the judicial system will be put in place. If you arrest someone or accuse them of something there is a process for it and ultimately you will find that the bad police are officers on Terminated at the end. “

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“Specifically for LEOBR in Delaware, there are some parts that could be tweaked, but the foundation for that is what we’re fighting for,” said Leonard.

Leonard called Delaware a small state with continuous state surveillance.

“We’re just trying not to do this radical reform on the basis of things that happen outside of our geographic area, where they don’t have the same kind of continuity between neighboring cities, let alone from one end of the state to the next,” he said.

Calls for action “now”

Haneef Salaam, manager of intelligent justice at the ACLU of Delaware, said surrounding states have taken steps to improve accountability in policing. He pointed to New Jersey, which passed law on the use of force, and Maryland, where lawmakers overruled the governor’s veto to make police policy more transparent.

Haneef Salaam

Haneef Salaam, ACLU of Delaware Smart Justice Manager

“These are states right around us, and Delaware has yet to move. While Derek Chauvin’s conviction in the George Floyd case was an important step in police accountability, I can’t call it justice … we won’t.” see justice until all cops are held accountable for their misconduct and policing data is transparent when it comes to police disciplinary records, when it comes to stops … and what is the age of the race and the reason for the stop and the results. We should have access to all of these statistics, but LEOBR prevents this, “said Salaam.

Coby Owens

Coby Owens

Community organizer Coby Owens said LEOBR had also foiled efforts by Wilmington City Council to set up a civil review body.

“The civil review boards that are being set up have no teeth, they have no power. To do this, we must change LEOBR to remove the obstacles that require internal investigation. The provision must be removed.” and insert a provision that the citizens, the people, can actually hold these hearings, “Owens said.

Salaam echoed Owens ‘calls, noting that the Delaware law enforcement officers’ Bill of Rights is among the strictest of its kind in the nation.

“Delaware has the worst LEOBR laws in the nation. Police disciplinary records are not only not open to the public, but are not open to anyone – there are no limits … and if there are suspected misconduct, we are when the police investigate the police and connected with the community, we think this is a big problem, “he said.” There is no other government agency that grants this luxury, so we need to change LEOBR to allow effective civil review bodies …. proper surveillance, investigation and subpoena of civil review bodies. ”

He now called for large-scale measures.

“This is not the time for baby steps … we don’t want to see a bill with a name that just gives us a little bit of boneless meat. We want to see effective bills that allow us to be police accountable and are now police accountable.”

While lawmakers appear to want to act in line with the Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force, whose recommendations are due to be released on April 29, 2021, Salaam said they are complicating this.

“This is all bureaucracy for me,” he said. “I’m hearing the same thing I heard at the press conference in June. So my question is when?” asked Salaam. “I ask our legislators to strengthen themselves.”

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