Police reform advocates react to release of Wilmington police manual
The City of Wilmington finished releasing a version of the police department’s policies and procedures manual. Police reform activists see it as just the first step.
The City started publishing redacted portions of the manual online following protests in Wilmington this spring. The final portion went up last week.
The manual addresses matters from the recruitment process to use of force policies. Mayor Mike Purzycki’s administration said its publication is an effort to increase transparency and cooperation between police and residents.
Lovely Lacey is with the grassroots groups Black Mothers in Power and Delaware for Police Oversight. Lacey thinks the portion of the manual dealing with unbecoming officer conduct is short, and the use of force section is vague.
“In my personal opinion, [I] believe that the releasing of it is an effort to show some sort of cooperation with the community, but not in the way that people asked,” said Lacey. “We asked for it, but we also asked for a community review board that doesn’t have police oversight.”
Dana Case, an activist with Food Not Bombs Wilmington, which advocates for police abolition, is also not impressed.
“This is the bare minimum reform that should have been in place to begin with,” Case wrote in a text message. “It does nothing to improve transparency, it just tells us what we already know: the police don’t follow their own rules.”
With the Wilmington police manual published, City Councilman Sam Guy says he’s glad what he sees as his idea has finally been implemented. He introduced a resolution in 2017 urging the police department to share the manual with council members, but it did not pass Council.
Guy thinks the manual can help citizens understand what to expect from police.
“You really oughta get a copy of that document and read it so you know how the police expect citizens to behave, and also how citizens should expect police to behave,” said Guy.
A similar ordinance, sponsored by Councilman Christofer Johnson, authorized and directed the police department to make the manual accessible online. It passed Council this summer. The city had already published several portions of the police manual by that point.
Johnson says having the police manual publicly accessible is important.
“We have a lot of distrust between the community and the police,” said Johnson. “I think at least this levels the playing field, and at least lets folks know what the use of force is, what the requirements are when you’re arrested.”
Delaware for Police Oversight is pushing for a civilian review board with power to review law enforcement policies, collect data, and prescribe discipline for police.
City Councilman Chris Johnson says he is working with the police union and advocates to try to build support for legislation that would create a “Citizen Complaint Review Board.” Johnson introduced the legislation this summer following the protests, then held it. It has not been brought for a vote.
“I want something that not only will get passed by Council but also voted in by the Mayor,” said Johnson.