Delaware Black Caucus requests stronger laws to protect civilians

The scene of the September 23

The scene of the September 23

The Delaware Black Caucus is calling for policy changes to better protect the African American community from deadly use of force by law enforcement.

The move comes weeks after the Delaware Department of Justice released its report that addressed the Wilmington Police Department’s use of force in the September 2015 shooting death of Jeremy McDole.

The incident involved four police officers that were dispatched after a 911 caller said there was an injured man armed with a gun. The 28-year-old, who was confined to wheelchair, was later killed in the 1800 block of Tulip Street in Wilmington. Family members have disputed the claim that McDole had a gun.  Cell phone footage captured part of the incident including the shooting. None of the officers were charged.

Officials are asking lawmakers to take a closer look at Delaware code Title 11 Section 464:

(a) The use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the defendant believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting the defendant against the use of unlawful force by the other person on the present occasion.

“It is clear that Delaware code needs to be changed and or amended for the sake of civilian’s rights. The DBC is concerned that the State of Delaware’s heightened standard of law may violate the civil rights of all our constituents and have a potentially disparate impact on African-Americans,” the DBC said in a written statement.

The Delaware Black Caucus immediately called for Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams and Gov. Jack Markell to launch a federal investigation into the September 23rd police-involved shooting. Now, leaders have requested the U.S. Department of Justice to perform an investigation in reference to the DOJ’s findings.

According to the Delaware Department of Justice, investigators looked into whether or not any of the four officers should be charged with a criminal offense. The report which was released last month said DOJ did not find probable cause to charge them with a criminal offense.

The full report can be found online.

In the meantime, members of the Black Caucus said the decision to not hold the officers accountable remains a top concern.

“It is a clear indication that our laws in Delaware on use of force are broad and vague, providing a breeding ground for future injustices,” read a statement in the DBC letter.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.