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Access to Justice Commission examines policing strategies

Anne Hoffman/Delaware Public Media

The Access to Justice Commission’s latest public hearing on access to fairness in the criminal justice system focused on policing strategies

A commission subcommittee heard from two experts on topics including how to reduce racial disparities in law enforcement and models different police departments around the country have used to reduce violent crime.

Sia Sanneh, from the Equal Justice Initiative, told the group that although she had little experience in Delaware, there are best practices all police departments can put in place to address racial disparities.

Specifically, body cameras, the elimination of police quota systems and implicit bias training.

Sub-committee member Charles Madden says that issue of bias is critically important.

When we talk about the number of people engaged in the criminal justice system, their point of entry is with the police officers. So some police contact led to their incarceration," said Madden.  "So the question gets to be, how biased are those interactions, how they are occurring?

Sanneh also told the group about experimental community policing efforts in St. Louis and Richmond, California that have been successful at lowering crime.

But former U.S. Attorney for Delaware Colm Connolly, who sits on the subcommittee, suggested New York City’s broken windows policing, which involves arresting many residents for small crimes, may also be worth emulating.


You saw a decrease in felony arrests, a decrease in the length of time people spent in prison, a decrease in the number of people who went to prison, and most importantly, a 72% decrease in crime," said Connolly.

David Rudovsky, an expert from U-Penn, countered that the now somewhat controversial strategy was only one factor in the city’s massive crime reduction.

Both Rudovsky and Sanneh suggest that Wilmington should first analyze data on police behavior and to understand the heart of the disconnect between community and police in the First State’s largest city.

Connolly says the Quattrone Center will be collecting that data in January to do a more thorough analysis.