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State Senate lawmakers approve change to police use of force

Delaware Public Media

The state Senate passes a police reform bill to change the state’s use of force standard.


The legislation would create an objective use of force standard for police officers in Delaware, stating the use of lethal and non-lethal force is only justified if the belief is determined to be reasonable.

Currently, police officers in Delaware are permitted to use deadly force when an officer believes it’s justified.

State Sen. Marie Pinkney’s (D-New Castle) bill also includes the use of a chokehold as deadly force, and other stipulations.

"We must also take into account the special training and education that police officers receive in order to become police officers," Pinkney. "For individuals who are not police officers, the same reasonable standard will be need to be met, it just does not require that we take into account education that they do not receive."

State Sen. Laura Sturgeon (D-Brandywine West) was also among the 14 Democrats to support the measure, and it’s her hope this can bring the community and police closer together.

"This is such an important bill to bring meaningful movement toward policing reform that will help build back community trust which is so important between members of the community and the police force," said Sturgeon.

State Sen. Dave Lawson (R-Marydel) calls the bill another example of Senate Democrats attacking police.

“And I'm tired of this targeted effort by this chamber in general to go after law enforcement that has done nothing but offer their lives and put their lives on the line to protect the very people here in," said Lawson


Lawson adds he feels this bill targets officers over criminals.

"The reach I understand, but I don't think it gets there because this bill is aimed at damning law enforcement for their behavior and not the criminal for their behavior," said Lawson. "And you're going to impact would be victims because now they're going to hesitate, you're going to cause law enforcement to hesitate because what if somebody says I did wrong."

Lawson argues the change would also end up causing more police getting hurt. 

The Senate – again in a party line vote – passed legislation expanding the power of the state Department of Justice’s Civil Rights and Public Trust to review use of force incidents resulting in serious physical injury in addition to the existing mandate to review all deadly force incidents.

SB 148 would also require the DOJ’s Civil Rights and Public Trust to report the race of individuals involved in use of force cases while also specifying if race played a factor in the use of force.

Both bills now head to the House.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.
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