Delaware Vote Tracker

Senate sends bills revamping law enforcement bill of rights and review boards to Governor Carney

The Senate last Friday passed two bills that would revamp how law enforcement disciplinary cases are handled and publicly disclosed, and add members of the public to a panel tasked with setting training standards and reviewing allegations of misconduct by Delaware police officers. 

Together, the bills would require public disclosure of certain findings against police officers, mandate that certain disciplinary reports be shared with defense attorneys and provide greater oversight of state and local law enforcement agencies. 

The measures build on previous police reform efforts proposed by the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus, including laws that required police officers to use body-worn cameras, established a statewide use-of-force standard, banned officers from using chokeholds, mandated the recording of all police custodial interrogations, prohibited the use of deceptive tactics against juveniles and mandated a minimum age for arrest and prosecution. 

“The bills we passed today represent an important step forward in our ongoing efforts to shed light on the culture of secrecy and ambiguity that has made it impossible for our communities to differentiate between honest police officers upholding their oath and bad apples whose actions spread fear and distrust among our neighbors,” Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman said. “While we still have more work to do around records transparency and community review boards, these bills are an important move in the right direction, and I look forward to Governor Carney signing them into law.” 

HOUSE BILL 205SREFORMING THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER’S BILL OF RIGHTSCurrrent Status – House Passed 39-1-1. Senate Passed 21-0. Sent to the Governor.
House SponsorsMinor-Brown, Johnson, Bolden, Cooke, Chukwuocha, Dorsey Walker, Neal, HarrisSenate SponsorsLockman, Brown, Pinkney
House Yes VotesBaumbach Bolden Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Harris Johnson Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Moore Morrison Neal Osienski Parker-Selby Phillips Romer Schwartzkopf Williams // Briggs King Collins Dukes Gray Hensley Hilovsky Morris Postles Ramone Short Shupe Smith Spiegelman Vanderwende YearickSenate Yes VotesBrown Gay Hansen Hoffner Huxtable Lockman Mantzavinos McBride Paradee Pinkney Poore Sokola Sturgeon Townsend Walsh // Buckson Hocker Lawson Pettyjohn Richardon Wilson
House No VotesWilson AntonSenate No Votes – None
House Absents or Not VotingHeffernanSenate Absent or Not Voting – None

Sponsored by House Majority Whip Melissa Minor-Brown and Sen. Lockman, House Bill 205S would make numerous changes to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, also known as LEOBOR, including renaming the law Police Officer’s Due Process, Accountability, and Transparency.  

The strict confidentiality provisions currently contained in LEOBOR have enabled a number of officers to continue serving despite repeated and egregious accusations of misconduct, including a former Dover officer whose file contained nearly 30 use-of-force reports, a fact that came to light only after he was captured on video breaking a man’s jaw.  

Disciplinary records for police officers recently convicted of domestic violencesexual solicitation of a childexcessive forceabusing narcotics on the job and operating a phantom traffic ticket scheme are currently shielded from public view.  

House Bill 205S would require police agencies that investigate allegations of misconduct to prepare a detailed narrative that includes a complete description of the facts, evidence collected, conclusions reached, the names of officers involved in substantiated findings, disciplinary actions taken and the employment status of disciplined officers. 

Investigating agencies would then be required to forward detailed narratives to the Criminal Justice Council (CJC) for online publication in cases involving the discharge of a firearm at a person, use of force that results in serious physical injury, sustained findings of sexual assault or sexual harassment, sustained findings of domestic violence or sustained findings of dishonest conduct not limited to perjury, false statements, filing false reports, witness tampering and destruction, falsification or concealment of evidence. 

House Bill 205S also requires that defense attorneys in a criminal or delinquency case be provided – at their request – all records relating to sustained findings of officer misconduct relating to perjury, intentional false statements or false reports, or destruction, falsification, or concealment of evidence by an officer who participated in the investigation or prosecution. 

Each law enforcement agency also would be required to submit additional information to the CJC annually for public posting, including the number of public complaints and internal complaints received pertaining to police misconduct, the number of formal investigations undertaken by the department, the number of complaints resolved without a formal investigation and the number of formal investigations that resulted in a sustained finding of misconduct, an unsubstantiated finding or any other disposition. 

“This bill moves us forward and ends years of stagnation on this issue, making a real impact by increasing transparency and public reporting, holding officers accountable, and formalizing the entire process,” Rep. Minor-Brown said. “This bill is a serious and meaningful step in the right direction after several attempts to make progress on this issue.” 

HOUSE BILL 206 CREATING THE POLICE OFFICER STANDARDS AND TRAINING COMMISSIONCurrrent Status – House Passed 40-0-1. Senate Passed 21-0. Sent to the Governor.
House SponsorsJohnson, Minor-Brown, Bolden, Cooke, Chukwuocha, Dorsey Walker, Neal, HarrisSenate SponsorsBrown, Lockman, Pinkney
House Yes VotesBaumbach Bolden Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Harris Heffernan Johnson Lambert Longhurst Matthews Minor-Brown Moore Morrison Neal Osienski Parker-Selby Phillips Romer Schwartzkopf Williams Wilson-Anton // Briggs King Collins Dukes Gray Hensley Hilovsky Morris Postles Ramone Short Shupe Smith Spiegelman Vanderwende YearickSenate Yes VotesBrown Gay Hansen Hoffner Huxtable Lockman Mantzavinos McBride Paradee Pinkney Poore Sokola Sturgeon Townsend Walsh // Buckson Hocker Lawson Pettyjohn Richardon Wilson
House No Votes – NoneSenate No Votes – None
House Absents or Not VotingLynnSenate Absent or Not Voting – None

The Senate on Friday also passed House Bill 206, sponsored by Rep. Kendra Johnson and Senator Darius Brown, to overhaul the Council on Police Training and rename it the Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission. 

“The Police Officer Standards and Training Commission continues the work of the Justice For All Agenda that the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus put forward in the 150th General Assembly,” Senator Brown said. “I look forward to this latest police accountability measure being signed into law.” 

The panel currently has a dual role of establishing training standards for Delaware police officers and overseeing allegations of police officer misconduct, including holding hearings for possible suspensions or decertifications. 

HB 206 would increase the number of Governor-appointed members of the public who serve on the commission from two to three. One would be required to be a community religious leader, while the other must be someone who has been impacted directly or immediate family members or caregivers of someone impacted by the criminal justice system. The appointees would be based on non-binding recommendations from the NAACP, the Delaware Center for Justice and other interested nonprofits. No Governor-appointed member of the public could be a current or former member of law enforcement or affiliated with law enforcement. 

HB 206 expands the commission’s existing powers to suspend or revoke an officer’s certification to include cases in which an officer has been decertified in another jurisdiction or has received probation before judgment in a criminal case involving theft, fraud or violation of the public trust or drug law. 

The commission also would have the authority to issue subpoenas for witnesses, documents, physical evidence or other evidence needed in connection with a hearing. 

HB 206 also would require all Delaware police departments to establish police accountability boards to advise those agencies on policy, training and other matters. Delaware police agencies also would be required to gain accreditation from the Delaware Police Accreditation Commission by July 1, 2028, standardizing many policies and procedures across all 51 law enforcement agencies in the state. 

Finally, the bill would implement several reforms to untether the commission from the Delaware State Police, and require the commission to double its mandated annual meetings to four. 

“The Council on Police Training plays a vital role in shaping police standards, training and discipline across the state. But an important voice has been missing: those who are intimately involved with or have been impacted by the criminal justice system. HB 206 ensures that public members of the commission have that experience and can bring it to the process,” Rep. Johnson said. “The bill will also address longstanding goals by requiring local accountability boards, increasing transparency, and providing public access to various records, reports and data. These changes will allow the public to play a more direct role in holding officers accountable.” 

The bills are not without their critics for not going far enough. Shyanne Miller, the campaign manager for the Building People Power Campaign and of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League had the following to say:

“Despite being included in the drafting process of previous attempts to amend LEOBOR, advocacy organizations and impacted families were left out of the conversations and meetings that led to the introduction of HB 205 and HB 206 on June 2, 2023. Police representatives were included throughout this year’s bill drafting process.”

“Advocates and impacted families say the bill falls short of addressing the needs and concerns of communities impacted by police misconduct because HB 205:

  • Maintains the status quo of allowing police to investigate themselves–giving them decision-making power as to whether a complaint of misconduct gets a formal investigation and if that complaint is substantiated or unsubstantiated. The issue is that the officers’ Department/supervisors would be responsible for investigating and substantiating these misconduct claims. Without Community Review Boards or independent oversight, there is no accountability for whether those investigations were handled correctly. This could incentivize law-enforcement to hide police misconduct to avoid public data disclosures.
  • Continues the practice of denying public access to police misconduct records. The bill allows for limited information on certain incidents of misconduct to be shared through “detailed narratives”. These “detailed narratives” will only be provided if police decide misconduct happened, and only if the misconduct falls within one of the small number of categories that require disclosure. It also doesn’t ensure records are retained after an officer leaves the department or provide access to records that were created before the law goes into effect.
  • Doesn’t give the community the power to hold police accountable for bad behavior. The bill requires reporting to the Criminal Justice Council and the Council on Police Training, both of which are composed predominantly of law enforcement-related appointees. We’re calling for the creation of Community Oversight Boards with the power to subpoena, investigate, and determine disciplinary action. We’re also asking for Community Oversight Boards that do not include current or former government employees, current or former government elected officials, current candidates for public office, current or former employees of law enforcement agencies, or immediate family members of any of the preceding. “

“HB205 and HB206 don’t do enough for families. Had this legislation passed when my brother was murdered by Wilmington police, I still would have had to rely on the police to investigate themselves and hold themselves accountable. These bills don’t do enough to solve the problem.” – Keandra McDole, sister of Jeremy “Bam” McDole.

“I am disappointed in the manner by which HB 205 and HB 206 came about— without advocates around the table and without consulting families that have been impacted by police violence. At the end of the day, we rely on our legislators to represent the needs of the whole community, not just the police. Celebrating this as a win can send the message that we’ve solved the problem when in reality this bill leaves the community in the same position as before— relying on police to hold themselves accountable.” – Vonda Smack, Smart Justice Ambassador

“Many have asserted that House Bills 205 and 206 are a “first step” in reform. However, these bills don’t provide the bare minimum transparency the public needs when it comes to accessing police misconduct records. Further, we haven’t heard commitments from legislators to give that to the public— let alone a promise to establish real accountability measures for police. We’re committed to being at the table to keep working on meaningful changes to the system.” – Coby Owens, Executive Committee Members, Delaware NAACP

“To call the bills police transparency and accountability bills is a misnomer. Rather than giving the public access to all misconduct records, minimal information about a few categories of misconduct will be made available to the public. The police decide whether to investigate, police conduct the investigation, police decide what should be included in the narrative sent to the Criminal Justice Council, and police decide what consequences, if any, should be imposed. This will all be done without any public oversight.” – Javonne Rich, Policy & Advocacy Director, ACLU of Delaware

“SDARJ is deeply disappointed that the legislature passed a bill that provides only limited transparency, leaves victims no better off, and still allows law enforcement to police itself. Years of task force and stakeholder meetings sent the message that the public wants complete transparency and public participation in accountability. The law enforcement dominated legislature disregarded that message and painted it with only a veneer of transparency and accountability. Stakeholders will continue to work for these goals.” – Clara Licata, Southern
Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice

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

1 comment on “Senate sends bills revamping law enforcement bill of rights and review boards to Governor Carney

  1. cassandram

    Now here is a bill that could have used a little more purity politics.

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