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Delaware Legislative Black Caucus unveils 'Justice For All' agenda

Tony Gorman
Delaware Public Media

Black lawmakers in Delaware’s General Assembly are offering a plan to address systemic racism and police brutality in the First State.

The Delaware Legislative Black Caucus unveiled its Justice for All Agenda Wednesday.

Senate Bill 191 highlights the list of legislative priorities. It seeks to amend the State Constitution to explicitly protect against discrimination based on race, color, and national origin.  

“With the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, the Justice For All Agenda will not only address discrimination, but help us prioritize policies impacting communities of color.  I firmly believe the eyes of the future will be looking back at us and praying we will be seeing beyond our time,” State Senator Darius Brown (D-Wilmington). 

Credit Tony Gorman / Delaware Public Media
Delaware Public Media
State Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker discusses portions of the Justice For All agenda at Legislative Hall

State Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker (D-Wilmington) said the agenda shows the Delaware General Assembly and other state entities’ willingness to put differences aside for the betterment of the State. 

“You know out of great tragedy comes great triumph.  And what you saw today is representative of the 150th General Assembly,” Rep. Dorsey Walker said.  But, it is more so representative of what’s in the heart of the man and the woman.  And so what you’re seeing now is a willingness to shift and a shift in the right direct.

The Justice For All Agenda also seeks creation of a task force to explore disparities faced by African American communities and make a five year investment in remedies.  

The agenda also calls for police reforms like banning strangle holds and body cam requirements, amending the state’s police bill of rights, and prohibiting the release of juvenile defendants’ mug shots.  and creation of a Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force.

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings attended and spoke at Wednesday's press conference.  Her office later relased its own set of reforms similar to the Justice For All Agenda.  Jennings' list adds calls for stronger use of force standards, the establishment of a statewide "Do Not Hire" list, the expansion of community policing, and the reformation of probationer search programs.

Not everyone was in favor of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus and Jennings' proposals.  The ACLU of Delaware and the Delaware for Police Oversight urged both groups to go further with their reforms.

Delaware Public Media
Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings' office is offering its own plan for reforms that has some overlap with the Justice for All package.

"We hope that reforms to police oversight, transpaerncy and accountability  will be given real teeth and bad actors will face real consequences, but even more, we hope that our leaders will be bold enough to envision and create for Black and Brown communities and emporwe people in those communities to lead to the chang they want for themselves," The ACLU of Delaware said in a statement.  

The coronavirus pandemic has limited the General Assembly’s work and its uncertain how many of these proposals might be considered before lawmakers complete their work for the year June 30th.