New Castle County is the first jurisdiction in Delaware to create a police accountability board under an ordinance approved earlier this month by County Council.
The ordinance comes as part of a collaborative effort among a variety of groups including the state’s Office of Defense Services, NAACP, the county police department, ACLU, Delaware Center for Justice, and Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.
“We are absolutely thrilled about the establishment of this New Castle County police accountability board, as it marks a monumental step in the right direction,” said Jennifer Thompkins, president & CEO of Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.
“This long-awaited development demonstrates our society’s collective commitment to positive change. With its creation, we can have a process that is dedicated to reviewing, addressing and aid in updating policy and practices within the police department. Moreover, it symbolizes a significant turning point in our ongoing pursuit of justice and fairness for all members of society.”
She added the board aims to bridge the gap between the community and police officers.
“Setting up this board really allows all parties to come to the table and have a greater understanding of what it means to be in community, essentially. So from that, the hope and what we’re edging towards is to make sure that this is a much more equitable process as far as policing in communities,” she said. “We are about making sure that every single citizen — particularly those who are disenfranchised, those who are of color— has parity and civil rights.”
The group will meet 10 times per year to review and offer recommendations on police policies and procedures including misconduct complaints, discipline, use of force, and other issues. The group will also analyze arrest and police misconduct data, as well as provide recommendations on future police reforms.
The accountability board will comprise 13 individuals, including 11 voting members and two non-voting ex-officio members from law enforcement, as mandated by state legislation approved in June. External organizations will recommend eight voting members to the county executive with the advice and consent of County Council. Additionally, voting members will receive compensation of $100 per meeting and serve a two-year term.
County Executive Matt Meyer said the new board will improve accountability.
“Government must be accountable in every way in every community. That applies to me. That applies to our police officers. County residents now have a seat at the table when it comes to law enforcement accountability,” he said. “This new democratic body will have insights and make important recommendations to improve public safety for New Castle County residents.
While the ordinance outlines the responsibility and duties of the board, Meyer says its overall purpose is to address systemic policing issues.
“The police accountability board will help us address systemic policing issues by analyzing patterns and trends, addressing deficiencies, policies and procedures,” he said. “Every Delawarean deserves the freedom to live in a healthy, safe and prosperous community. And that’s really at the heart of why we’re doing this.”