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Wilmington City Council approves citizen police review board

Delaware Public Media

Wilmington City Council voted to adopt a police citizen review board Thursday night.

The vote was 10 to one with one abstaining – in an attempt to provide further transparency and accountability in the Wilmington Police Department.

The ordinance sponsored by Councilman Chris Johnson calls for a nine-member board with five members of the public and four appointed by government bodies. It would have the power to receive complaints and launch investigations.

Board members would be appointed with consideration to professional experience in civil rights and law enforcement. The board would conduct meetings and issue reports. Board members would serve three year terms.

Councilwoman Loretta Walsh supported the measure, but concedes the new board won’t be able to do much without action from the state lawmakers.

“Because the police are protected by the Bill of Rights, and then can refuse to appear before these committees. They can refuse the result of these committees,” said Walsh. “So our big change is going to have to be to change the Police Bill of Rights.”    

The one nay vote was Councilman Ciro Adams. He points out the state Attorney General’s Office, Police Internal Affairs and the Office of Professional Standards already provide police oversight.

“These are three oversight boards over police misconduct already, and there are processes in place,” said Adams. “The last four years since I’ve been here there were 13 officers terminated from the Wilmington Police Department—13. Police are held accountable.”  

Adams repeatedly cited data showing 33 citizen complaints of police misconduct in 2019 out of 114,956 service calls saying “there’s no pandemic of police misconduct.”

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge One requested council table the measure citing unanswered questions about the review board’s powers. A spokesperson said the union “did not feel a part of the process.”

The fiscal ask for the measure is yet to be determined, but Johnson says he suspects it would be less than $100,000. An amendment was added to the measure pushing it back until the 2022 budget year.

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