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Law enforcement reform group looks at sexism in Delaware's police departments

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Sexism was at the forefront of a Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force meeting Monday night.

The workforce development subcommittee hosted three prominent black women in law enforcement to highlight the need to develop a diverse workforce in Delaware’s police departments.


Changing the culture of the promotion process was a big topic with panelists saying police culture restricts minorities’ ability to get ahead.


Sydney Roberts is the chief administrator of Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability. She says she discovered working in departments such as internal affairs and polygraph, she was being turned over for promotions.


“The department has to make sure that they don’t have a process that is not allowing exposure from your minority and your female applicants," said Roberts. "You have to make a commitment to make sure that they can compete.”

Roberts says when a police department encourages promotion within high visibility squads such as homicide and vice, many women and People of Color who can’t get on those teams in the first place miss out on leadership positions.


The panelists all emphasized the importance of mentoring.


Retired FBI agent Rhoda Glover Reese says it doesn’t even have to be someone who looks like you, having a mentor for new police officers on the force teaches them valuable skills in navigating the workplace. 


Mental health also took a front seat at the listening session. State Rep. Ruth Briggs King (R- Georgetown) says both officers and their families need help.


“I would hope that there was a way that we could ensure that we’re giving the families support or teaching the families how to cope with people that are working in these positions,” said Briggs-King.


Roberts says her office and department take mental health seriously, and look for signs of alcoholism and domestic violence, so they can stop those problems in their tracks.


She adds investing in mental health resources to encourage a healthy culture needs to be a priority.


Civil rights professional Maricia Thompson agrees, saying the high stress situations these officers face creates a workplace full of burnout and stress.


The Workforce Development Subcommittee did not mention officers’ mental health in its interim report submitted last month.


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

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