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State NAACP calls for police chief's resignation after video of violent arrest

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy (white shirt) talks with protesters last summer

Public criticism of the Wilmington Police Department continues after an officer wascaught on camera repeatedly slamming a man’s head into plexiglass during an arrest in Southbridge last month. 

Leaders of the Delaware NAACP State Conference of Branches want Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy to resign or be fired. They’re also calling for the officer involved in the incident, who remains on administrative duty, to be fired and arrested.

New Castle County Councilman and civil rights advocate Jea Street, Sr., said at a press conference held by the NAACP Monday that the incident is the “straw that broke the camel’s back”— just the latest in a pattern of mistreatment of Black people by Wilmington police. 

Delaware NAACP president Richard Smith says there’s a need for federal intervention. 

"We’re calling on the United States Attorney General to come here and take over Wilmington’s Police Department and New Castle [County’s] Police Department, because they’re out of control when it comes to Black folks,” he said. 


New Castle County police shot and killed Lymond Moses, who was Black, in Wilmington early this year. 


The civilian involved in the recent Southbridge incident plans to sue. His lawyer, Tom Crumplar, said Monday it’ll be a civil rights lawsuit with claims under the 14th Amendment. 


“We feel the force here was not only excessive, but was a violation of Dwayne Brown’s constitutional rights,” Crumplar said. 


The attorney says he plans to file the action by the end of the month. He’s calling on Wilmington police to release the name of the officer. 


“We shouldn't have to file it as a John Doe rogue cop,” Crumplar said. “If they truly believe this is an exception, give us their name. And he can defend himself, if he can.”


Wilmington police have released few details, citing a pending internal investigation. A department spokesperson declined to comment on the NAACP’s stance. The office of Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki also declined to comment.


“We owe it to all involved in this matter to conduct a very careful and thorough investigation, which we are doing as expeditiously as possible," said John Rago, the Mayor's deputy chief of staff, in an email Monday. "The last thing we will do is jeopardize the investigation by commenting further until the facts are known. There is too much at stake to not handle this correctly.”

Other advocacy groups and Wilmington City Council president Trippi Congo have called for the release of the officer’s body camera footage.


“We cannot continue to drag this matter out,” Congo said in a statement Friday. “The reality is, the longer we delay this process the more frustrated our residents will be.”

David Bever, executive director of the Delaware Center for Justice, said in a statement last week that his organization has many questions about the incident. 

“While we’re glad to see some steps were taken to remove that officer from the community, we need to see the body camera footage,” he said. “We need an accounting of why that incident happened, what will happen next, what that officer’s record is, and what recourse the victim is entitled to. We’re calling on the Wilmington Police Department to provide these details straight away.” 

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the date of the arrest. 

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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