In response to mounting calls for police and racial justice reforms across the state, the city of Wilmington has budgeted nearly $1 million for law enforcement body cameras while establishing a new Citizen Complaint Review Board.
A $942,000 amendment to the recently enacted Fiscal Year 2021 operating budget was introduced at Thursday night’s council meeting with a majority of seven council members pledging their support for funding a body-worn camera program for the Wilmington Police Department.
On June 10, ten days after mass looting and a night of violence on Wilmington’s Market Street, members of the Delaware General Assembly introduced sweeping criminal justice and police reform measures on the steps of Legislative Hall in Dover. Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki joined Attorney General Kathy Jennings in unveiling a list of a dozen reforms aimed at rebuilding the trust between the police forces across the state and the citizens they serve.
One element of the plan was mandatory and universal body-worn cameras by local and statewide law enforcement agencies. Police Chief Robert J. Tracy says his department hopes to have the body-worn camera program implemented sometime this fall.
With the ubiquitous presence of digital evidence becoming available, which ranges from smartphones to vast surveillance platforms, police departments are expected to be capable of capturing and managing digital evidence considered essential in prosecutions.
The 9-minute video of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked a nationwide response, and weeks of protests and demonstrations, with many turning into multiple days of violence and looting. In the Floyd case, the video was recorded by a bystander. There does not appear to be police body camera footage of the event.
Newark City Council budgeted $428,000 for 60 body-worn cameras for its police department in the fall of 2019. However, additional state and federal grants were also sought for the required funding.
WPD Body-Worn Camera Program
The budget amendment introduced Thursday will provide $400,000 in local matching funds while Wilmington awaits word on a federal grant which will be used to cover the remaining $542,000 balance of the body camera program for Fiscal Year 2021. The Mayor and Police Chief said when the City and federal funding are combined, body cameras will be worn by all Wilmington Police Department (WPD) uniformed personnel.
Mayor Purzycki also repeated his promise today that should Wilmington not receive a federal grant to support the body camera program, the city is committed to immediately identifying the funding to implement police body cameras.
In recent weeks, the Purzycki Administration made public the WPD Use of Force policy as the initial release of the WPD Policy and procedures manual. Select chapters of the manual are posted online here. Other sections will be posted as soon as confidential information is redacted.
Sections released thus far relate generally to the organization of the police department, duties and responsibilities; probation, resignation, retirement, and reinstatement; procedures; general conduct; and the administration of discipline.
Wilmington Civil Rights Commission
This seven-member appointed body is charged with supporting diversity, equality, equity, and the understanding of civil and human rights.
The commission is also charged with dismantling injustice, discrimination, bigotry, hatred, and harassment. The panel will meet at least quarterly to review any reported cases of discrimination and to educate the public about equal rights and opportunities for all persons in Wilmington.
The seven new members approved are:
- Garrison Davis (Council appointee) is a graduate of the University of Delaware where he majored in Organizational & Community Leadership. His experience includes working at West Side Grows Together through the Public Allies Program and serving in the US Peace Corps as a Community Development Volunteer in Moldova.
Davis was one of a half dozen who helped organize the June 5th protest at Tubman-Garrett Park.
- Brionna Denby, Esq. (Administration appointee) is an attorney with the law firm of Cohen Seglias. As a member of the firm’s Government Law & Regulatory Affairs, Internal Investigations, Title IX, and Scientific Misconduct Groups, Brionna counsels corporations, educational institutions, non-profit groups, and other entities that are faced with allegations of wrongdoing. Before joining Cohen Seglias, Brionna served as a Deputy Attorney General for the Delaware Department of Justice in the Civil Division, Defensive Litigation Unit, and in the Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust.
- Nate Durant (Administration appointee) is currently the Co-Head of School at the Freire Charter School in Wilmington. Durant is a former science teacher at Thomas Edison School in the City. His community involvement includes various leadership positions with the Cool Spring Neighborhood Association, including serving as the organization’s President.
- Luz D. Maldonado (Administration appointee) is the mother of a five-year-old daughter and is a longtime resident of Wilmington’s West Side. She has been employed for the past 15 years by the Red Clay Consolidated School District as a classroom teacher and school counselor. Maldonado currently works at the Lewis Dual Language Elementary in the Cool Spring neighborhood. She part of the Multi-Tiered System of Supports TSS, which helps schools to organize levels of supports based on intensity so that students receive necessary instruction and interventions based on need. Luz previously served as a member of Los Jardines (Senior Housing) Board and was a co-organizer of the grassroots group Voces Sin Fronteras/Voices without Borders.
- John Mitchell (Administration appointee) was born, raised, and still lives in Wilmington. He attended Howard High School and Delaware State University. John’s professional career began in 1975 at the former ICI Americas in the Facility Management Division and he is presently employed as the Executive Chauffeur for AstraZeneca. John’s passion is being an advocate for change in his community and serving others, having served previously on the board of the Central Baptist Church Community Development Corporation, as vice president of the Inter Neighborhood Foundation, and as a board member and vice president of Brandywine Gateway Neighbors. John is a proud member of the Hawks, a community service group formed by the late William “Hicks” Anderson at the Kingswood Community Center.
- Amy O’Neill (Administration appointee) is part of a Wilmington family that has lived in the City for many generations. She is currently Principal of Baltz Elementary School and is the former Assistant Principal at the Lewis Dual Language Elementary School in Wilmington.
- Kathleen Patterson (Council appointee) is employed at Longwood Gardens and has extensive community outreach experience. She currently volunteers at Lutheran Services Food Pantry, the St. Patrick’s Day Society and was a past president of the Second District Neighborhood Planning Council and is now a member of the 9th Ward Civic Association.