Delaware

Time to Play Hardball

I said that before the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus (DLBC) unveiled their racial justice and police reform package on Wednesday. But now it is crystal clear that the supposed Democratic Leadership in the General Assembly did not come to this table in good faith, and the DLBC or any other Democratic Senator or Representative shouldn’t feel at all bound by their package announced on Wednesday.

Instead, the bare minimum now, after Schwartzkopf gave an absolute veto over any police reform legislation to the Fraternal Order of Police, is to demand what Attorney General Kathy Jennings has proposed and announced, as well as the 8 Can’t Wait program, both of which I will detail below. And if all three packages are not enacted, then legislators should withhold their votes for the budget, and their votes for Pete Schwartzkopf to continue as Speaker.

The DLBC and progressives are never going to have more leverage than they have right now. It’s an election year and there is strong public opinion on their side. In fact, polling suggests this is a moment of systemic change in the public’s attitudes towards police, Black Lives matter and a host of other racial issues, and this change has been a long time coming. And given Schwartzkopf’s statement giving the police an absolute veto over any reform, it is now clear that Leadership was just hoping to make some nods towards reform and give the right platitudes and form their beloved task forces, while hoping time passes and this moment blows over.

Here are the Attorney General’s proposals:

  • Change the police use of force statute to require belief in the necessity of force to be “objectively reasonable.” The attorney general argues that the current statute is “unclear and entirely subjective,” and does not require an officer to show that the use of force was actually necessary. 
  • Create a statewide use of force standard for every police agency. Officers would be required to exhaust all other “reasonable alternatives” before using deadly force, according to the attorney general’s office. Officers would also have to intervene to stop another officer for using excessive force. Officers would also have to report a violation of use of force policy. This standard would be the minimum, and agencies could adopt higher standards.
  • Create a law that criminalizes the knowing or reckless deprivation of someone’s constitutional rights.
  • Create a statewide civilian review board that would do independent reviews of police misconduct cases.
  • Change the disciplinary process for officers to add more transparency and accountability for misconduct, including amending the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. Investigations would go unimpeded. Drug and alcohol testing would also be required following a use of force incident.  
  • Disclose videos of police shootings. However, if releasing the video to the public would jeopardize an accused’s right to a fair trial, the state would have to withhold publishing it before introducing it in the courtroom as evidence. 
  • Create a public, statewide database of police misconduct findings and a public “Do Not Hire” list of officers who have been fired or resigned due to abuse of force or misconduct. 
  • Ban the forfeiture of property when it’s not part of an arrest for a felony. 
  • Encourage all police agencies to adopt community-oriented policing policies consistent with the report on 21st Century Policing.  
  • Review and reform programs between probation and parole and law enforcement that currently provide expanded search and seizure opportunities for those on probation to analyze racial impact and effectiveness.
  • Pass the remaining criminal justice reform bills that were proposed in 2019. The bills tackle laws related to sentencing and fines that reform advocates say disproportionately hurt minority and low-income residents.

Campaign Zero, which emerged from the police protests in Ferguson, Missouri, has come up with some police reform ideas that they call 8 Can’t Wait, that don’t cost any money and could be implemented very fast.

Vox has a full explainer here.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

2 comments on “Time to Play Hardball

  1. A Wilmingtonian

    I am not a fan of the Statewide Civilian Review Board, unless that board specifically reviews the State Police. Every subdivision that has its own police force should be able to have its own review board. This statewide business with retired police included is a Delaware Way solution that creates the appearance of oversight while making it utterly toothless, especially for the communities that want it.

  2. A Wilmingtonian

    DE LEOBOR desperately needs review and revision, if not outright elimination. It is possible that the longterm effectiveness of body cam use could be stymied by LEOBOR provisions. And any retired officer who runs for public office should have his/her police record made public.

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