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Wilmington City Council urges General Assembly to pass changes to law keeping police records secret

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Wilmington City Council has thrown its support behind proposed changes to a law that keeps internal investigations into police misconduct secret from the public. 

Senate Bill 149 is currently pending before the state Senate Judiciary Committee—and has not yet been voted on in either the state House or Senate. It would make law-enforcement disciplinary records public records and enable the creation of community review boards. The state’s controversialLaw Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) currently shields police records, including internal investigations into misconduct, from public view and dictates the circumstances of the internal investigations.

Wilmington City Council passed a resolution Thursday urging the General Assembly to pass the bill amending LEOBOR. 

Local policing reform activist Shyanne Miller urged Council to act. 

“I’m hoping that we can … show the state that we want to make moves toward what can be a better relationship between the community and the police,” she said. 

Most councilmembers voiced strong support for the resolution, arguing it should improve trust and transparency—and that good police officers should have nothing to hide from the public. 

“We used to have this phrase, if you haven't done anything wrong, what’s wrong with the investigation?” said Councilwoman Linda Gray, who voted in favor of the resolution. “Why do you fear that? So if you’re abiding by the rules, why won’t you allow us to investigate?”

Two members of Council voted ‘no,’ with Councilman James Spadola citing the timing of the resolution—less than 24 hours after three Wilmington police officers were shot and injured in a standoff in the City.

The Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force, convened last year to examine and recommend potential policing reforms, only narrowly voted to recommend changes to LEOBOR this spring. Several police representatives on the task force objected.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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