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New legislative task force announced aimed at tackling policing and racial justice

Sophia Schmidt
Delaware Public Media

State Rep. Franklin Cooke announced Thursday the members of the new task force meant to shape legislation around policing and racial justice.

The 18-member Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force includes state elected officials, law enforcement and community activists.


Retired police officer and state Rep. Franklin Cooke chairs the group. He’s also a member of the Legislative Black Caucus, which created the task force to address issues of racial injustice and police brutality after protests reached Delaware late this spring.


“My Highest priority goals are making sure everybody gets a chance to sit at the table and talk and discuss,” Cooke says. “Roll our sleeves up and dig into these sensitive, very very sensitive issues dealing with the police department and the public.”


The group’s four subcommittees will cover use of force policies, workforce development, community policing and transparency. 


But only a handful of the members announced Thursday are not tied to government or law enforcement. Police reform activists have expressed concern over police helping shape legislation meant to hold them accountable.


Coordinator and Founder Garrison Davis of Delaware for Police Oversight says he’s concerned the task force won’t be able to deliver on its promises.


“There’s no guarantee that the suggestions these outside voices are putting forward are gonna be implemented,” Davis says. “Until there’s a guarantee that all the hard work and the research that people are going to be putting into this are actually going to be implemented in one way or another; I mean it seems performative.”


Cooke says he also plans to include more community members in the subcommittees that will craft legislation proposals.


Cooke adds it’s too early to judge what’s going to come out of the committee because the first meeting isn’t even until next week.


Ron Handy is the vice chair of the NAACP’s Bear branch and a member of the task force. He says increasing accountability and community policing are priorities in communities of color.


“I really want the community to understand that police officers really are here to help us. But I also want police officers to understand that they’re not here in a punitive role, that they’re actually here to help and to serve.”


The task force meets for the first time August 6th when they will announce additional community members appointed to the subcommittees.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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