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Politics & Government

Dover Police announce overhaul of policies

Dover_Police_Car.jpg
Roman Battaglia
/
Delaware Public Media
Dover Police Car Outside The Headquarters

The Dover Police Department announced a sweeping review of its current policies on Thursday.

 

In response to pressure from public leaders and internally among police officers, the Dover Police Department is enacting a series of reforms to improve community relations and better align their policies with their vision.

One of the major changes is the addition of a new policy on use of chokeholds within the department. 

Dover Police Chief Thomas Johnson says officers will only be able to use a chokehold in self defense, when all other options have been exhausted.

And he notes this is just one of many policies the department is examining.

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Credit Delaware Public Media
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Dover Police Chief Thomas Johnson

“We’re looking at our whole policy book from end to end. To make sure that not only the change that we’re affirmatively making to specific policies that are of concern of the day, We’re doing that to make sure there’s no surprises in the future because we didn’t reconcile other policies that might refer to those policies.”

Dover PD’s announcement came the same day Gov. Carney announced his plan to sign an executive order enacting similar reforms with Delaware State Police and Capitol Police. 

Another policy change implemented focuses on “duty to intervene,” which requires officers to report on any members that violate laws or department policies.

Police departments, such as the NYPD, often struggle with getting officers to report violations because of police culture. Those who speak up often face backlash from co-workers and even superiors.

Chief Johnson says the department plans to develop a culture where officers are encouraged to keep accountable.

“You’re talking about trying to refine the value systems of individual people. And that’s a lot of work if everybody comes from a different starting point on where they see the line in the sand. It’s certainly not impossible. It’s gonna take some time and some positivity and just a persistence.”

Johnson also says his department is willing to participate in the national use-of-force database run by the FBI. He said databases like this will only help to further improve policy decisions across the entire country.

The Office of Professional Standards, a new department within the force is already being implemented. The new office will combine internal affairs, accreditation and the training units.

 

Johnson says this will repair the broken feedback loop that many police departments see slowly throughout the years. 

When officers get promoted, improvements to the training program as a response to internal affairs and policies often get forgotten.

 

This new office will ensure that training programs are taking lessons from the field to improve accountability.

Johnson also plans to form a citizens advisory board to take feedback from a diverse group representing the population of Dover. Members will include public leaders, clergy, and other citizens. The board will rotate to ensure a diverse set of opinions.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.