More Criminal Justice – Police Reform Bills Pass Del. House

Meineke

Three more criminal justice and police-reform measures have passed in the House of Representatives, two of which developed out of last year’s Delaware Legislative Black Caucus Justice for All Agenda.

Law enforcement would be required to electronically record any custodial interrogations involving an adult accused of a crime or a juvenile accused of an delinquent act, under House Bill 215. The recording could be done by video or audio.

“Interrogations are a critical component of the law enforcement process, but too often, there are questions about what actually was said or what happened in that room,” Representative Melissa Minor-Brown, D-New Castle south said. “Much like body cameras, taping interrogations will provide an accurate record of what happened. It will increase transparency and accountability, but it will also provide protection for both the person being questioned and the officers conducting the interrogation. It will reduce false accusations and help restore trust in the process.”

Another measure approved in the House (House Bill 243) would prohibit law enforcement agencies from sharing or publishing mug shots of juveniles charged with minor crimes. There would be exceptions in cases where a juvenile is charged with a violent felony crime or if releasing a photograph is important to public safety.

“As we know, information that is posted on the internet lives on forever and can follow a person around for years. In that way, a mistake someone made as a teenager can come back to haunt them in adulthood, hurting their job prospects, even if they have managed to put their life on the right track,” Representative Franklin Cooke, D-New Castle North said. “Worse, posting a mugshot of a juvenile online when they are simply charged with or sought in connection with a crime associates them with that offense, even if the charges are dropped, or if they found not responsible.”

Also, a House Joint Resolution (HJR 4) was approved that would make information about complaints against law enforcement officers available to the public.

“Publishing reports of complaints by agency and a list of decertified officers will make this information more easily accessible to the public and provide more data for residents to know more about the police agencies that serve their communities,” House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach said. “There is no single silver bullet to addressing police reform; we must take a series of steps forward toward improving transparency and accountability. This measure is another piece of a larger puzzle of reforming our criminal justice system to improve policing and ensure the system works the way it is intended.”

All three bills go to the State Senate for consideration.

Hermann-Financial