Revised Del. Police Accountability Bill Introduced, Draws Early Criticism

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A revised bill to revise the Delaware Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights has been introduced in the Delaware General Assembly.
Sponsors of SS 1 for SB 149 said Monday that it would be a step toward opening serious and substantial police misconduct records to public view, something Delaware has lacked for more than 25 years. Also, a two-tier community review board system would be established with the power to examine law enforcement agencies’ handling of officer misconduct cases and to make recommendations for improvements.
Municipalities and counties would be able to create these boards.
The initiative comes from the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus Justice for All Agenda, which was introduced two years ago following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

“Immediately after the greatest civil unrest our state has seen in decades, my colleagues and I stood on the steps of Legislative Hall and vowed to take action,” State Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, D-Wilmington said. “For too long, the information the public needs to differentiate between an honest police officer upholding their oath and a bad apple sowing further distrust remains locked away from public view. The legislation we are filing today will not only shed light on the culture of secrecy and ambiguity that has allowed hatred and fear of law enforcement to grow in our state, it will – for the first time in Delaware history – put a measure of oversight into those agencies in the hands of the people, where it belongs.” 

“Ever since the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus announced the Justice for All Agenda in June 2020, we have worked consistently to achieve meaningful criminal justice and law enforcement reforms. We mandated police body cameras, required recording of interrogations, established a uniform use-of-force standard, automated expungements, raised the age of prosecution, and more,” Representative Kendra Johnson, D-New Castle / Bear said. “We pledged to tackle an ambitious agenda of reforms, and we’ve followed through on the vast majority of our priorities so far. Taken together, these changes will have a real, meaningful impact on our criminal justice system and the way it serves communities of color in Delaware.”  

“Reforming the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights is probably the most complex piece of that puzzle. Sen. Lockman has been tireless in engaging all sides of this issue to put forward a bill that will help communities rebuild trust in law enforcement. This bill will greatly improve transparency, accountability, public oversight, and checks and balances. It will make the first significant change to LEOBOR in 25 years, and I think that is an important step forward,” Johnson added.  

Initial reaction was not positive from the ACLU of Delaware and its Delaware Campaign for Smart Justice.

“We adamantly oppose the SB 149 substitute billWe did not come to this decision lightly; however, the new version of the bill takes community oversight out of the hands of the community by creating just one statewide oversight board that is overseen by the state’s top law enforcement official, leaving local boards without any meaningful oversight power. The substitute bill continues to keep police disciplinary records shrouded in secrecy by offering only a small number of records for public access, with far too many exceptions to be meaningful,” Delaware Campaign for Smart Justice Manager Haneef Salaam said. “This substitute bill doesn’t reform LEOBOR. It’s a disappointment to community members and advocates who have been working in good faith to increase police transparency and accountability over the last two years. This bill falls far short of what constituents have asked for – it only provides a mirage of transparency and accountability, which is almost worse than nothing at all. This isn’t a compromise; it’s a travesty.”

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