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Politics & Government

Wilmington mayor to let police citizen review board ordinance advance without signature

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An ordinance passed by Wilmington City Council last week to create a police citizen review board will become law without Mayor Mike Purzycki’s signature.

Purzycki announced Wednesday he will not sign or veto the measure.

By law, ordinances not acted on by the mayor become law after 10 days.  

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

The vote was 10-1 with one abstaining.

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.

Purzycki says he supports citizen oversight, but is taking this approach because he believes the ordinance only supplies the illusion of oversight.  He argues current state law and labor agreements will stymie a review board, while the city is still on the hook to pay an unknown amount to create it.

"As currently constructed, the Board will become a frustrating exercise for all concerned. This law promises much, but, as currently written and in a current legal environment that neutralizes its authority and restricts its scope, it is doomed to produce little to expectant and hopeful City residents," saidf Purzycki in a statement. "While the Board is intended to make a positive difference, its efficacy depends upon uncertain, dramatic, and controversial legislative action by the General Assembly in Dover. In the meantime, the City and its residents will foot the bill—whatever that might be."

Johnson said last week he suspects the cost would be less than $100,000.

Purzycki is also concerned about the review board’s composition, saying seats should not be dedicated to specific advocacy organizations and officeholders to avoid political influence and bias.

"The Board should be composed of persons qualified by their experience, education, and training to guide oversight and investigations and render thoughtful judgment. The members should be simply appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by Council," said Purzycki in his statement.

Purzycki hopes when the new City Council session begins next year, it will reeaxmine the issue.

"It is my hope and respectful request to my colleagues in the upcoming session of Council that, as the Board is brought into existence over the next year, there be further discussion and vigorous debate committed to improving this legislation so that it has the opportunity to deliver upon the promises made to the people of this City,” saidf Purzycki in his statement.

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