Delaware Legislation Looks To Address Systemic Injustice

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Members of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus Wednesday unveiled a package of legislation that addresses police procedures and systemic injustices the sponsors say have impacted people of color.

Lawmakers were joined by Governor John Carney, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, Attorney General Kathy Jennings and others as they discussed the initiative on the steps of Legislative Hall in Dover.

The Justice For All Agenda was described as the result of a collaborative effort involving the Legislative Black Caucus, General Assembly Leadership and other stakeholder groups.

One bill, Senate Bill 191, would amend Delaware’s Constitution to specifically make protection against discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin a fundamental right.

Other provisions would establish a task force that would examine disparities experienced by people of color, and would establish a law enforcement accountability task force.

Police would be prohibited from using choke holds, knee pressure across the neck or other methods of cutting off a person’s air supply “unless deadly force is necessary.

The House Democratic Caucus released these details of the package Wednesday:

  • Passage of Senate Bill 191, the first leg of an amendment to the Delaware Constitution that would explicitly make protection against discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin a fundamental right.
  • Establishment of an African American Task Force entrusted with exploring the disparities experienced by people of color throughout Delaware and proposing remedies to address those inequities, including a commitment to significant, restorative investments in historically Black communities over the next 5 years.
  • Banning knee holds, choke holds and similar acts of applying force or pressure against the trachea, windpipe, carotid artery or jugular vein unless deadly force is necessary.
  • Requiring that body camera devices be used by all law enforcement agencies in Delaware and mandating that those devices be activated from the beginning to the end of all interactions with suspects or witnesses.
  • Prohibiting Delaware law enforcement agencies from releasing mug shots or other photographs of juvenile defendants.
  • Requiring that all Delaware law enforcement agencies video record all interrogations of juvenile suspects and defendants except under certain circumstances.
  • Amending to the Delaware Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights to allow criminal defendants’ legal counsel to receive internal affairs investigation records of law enforcement officers accused of wrongdoing.
  • Establishment of a Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force made up of a wide range of stakeholders, including police officers and impacted citizens, assigned with considering additional issues and proposals regarding the use of force, civil rights protections, transparency and community policing.