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Wilmington police use of force policy released

Delaware Public Media

Among the demands of protesters and advocates for racial justice in Delaware: more transparency in policing. 

The group Delaware for Police Oversight is pushing for a statewide community review board that would investigate cases of possible police misconduct, review policing policy and improve transparency for the public. 

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki released the Wilmington Police Department’s use of force policy this week.

The version of the policy posted publicly is redacted to preserve police strategy. 

It details when Wilmington Police are permitted to use K-9s, less-lethal weapons like pepper spray, and deadly force. It also includes a de-escalation policy, but only advises officers to use techniques to reduce the need for force “when safe … and [when] time and circumstances permit.”

Mayor Mike Purzycki said in a statement the release of the policy is the “first of many” from the police manual. 

Last week he and City Council President Hanifa Shabazz committed to several reforms, including body-worn cameras for police. Purzycki also joined a press conference with the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus Wednesday, and expressed optimism.

“I feel today that everything is changing in a way that we couldn’t have ever anticipated,” he said. “But I have to tell you I think something good is coming out on the other side, I believe that in my heart.”

Purzycki has committed to “supporting” creation of a civilian review board — but admitted that the Wilmington’s police union contract and state law may need changing.

City Councilman Sam Guy plans to introduce legislation creating a civilian review panel with subpoena power and authority to investigate. He says he has introduced similar measures in the past. 

The City says Wilmington police already employ the “8 Can’t Wait” policies for police reform popularized in recent weeks. These include comprehensive reporting requirements and a use of force continuum. 


Neither Purzycki nor Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy responded to requests for interviews.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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