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Wilmington City Council delivers budget ultimatum to Police Department

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Delaware Public Media
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Some Wilmington City Council members say they won’t approve a budget that doesn’t include an audit of the Police Department.

City Council President Ernest “Trippi” Congo calls an audit a win-win for the community and the police department. But the department and Mayor Mike Purzycki's administration haven’t been as receptive as Congo would like.

“We’re hoping that our other colleagues can understand the importance of it. And understand that we’re not trying to vilify our police department, we want a better police department,” Congo said. “And we want the administration and the police department to welcome this team with open arms and open our doors and say ‘Yes, come help us to be better.’”

The audit would be done from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund with the goal of providing an unbiased evaluation of the department and feedback to enact systemic reform.

Congo thinks reform suggestions will be better received from an outside party.

Congo says some officers fear retaliation if they speak out against misconduct, and wish to remain anonymous in voicing their concerns to Congo.

“And I think this audit team will be able to come in, talk to them, and keep them anonymous,” Congo said. “But it won’t be me saying it. So, the Chief or the administration or certain officers won’t feel that it’s coming from me and that I’m trying to hurt them. But they’ll know that it's coming from an outside, neutral team.”

Mayor Purzycki’s Deputy Chief of Staff John Rago said in a statement the administration is dedicated to and moving forward with police reforms at a reasonable pace to produce the most effective results. But the audit is still under discussion.

Congo says an in-depth, six-month audit would only add an extra $200,000 to the almost $62 million 2023 Police budget that Chief Robert Tracy presented this week. At least seven council members are needed to back the audit demand to ensure a budget cannot pass without requiring the audit. In addition to Congo, Councilwoman Shane Darby has also openly supported the demand.

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.