Mayoral debate presents eight sets of solutions for Wilmington

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

Seven candidates vying for Mayor Dennis Williams’ seat say they all have the answer to reduce crime and strengthen the local economy.

Monday’s mayoral debate at Ezion Fair Baptist Church in Southbridge consisted of a packed panel including: current Mayor Dennis Williams, Maria Cabrera, Theo Gregory, Mike Purzycki, Eugene Young, Senator Robert Marshall, and former city councilmen Norman Griffiths and Kelly Kelley.

The Complexities of Color Coalition along with the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League hosted the event where candidates challenged each other on various topics. Public safety received the most attention and even sparked a few outbursts from the crowd.

One question demanded answers from each candidate on how to improve the relationship between the Wilmington Police Department and black community.

According to Gregory, it starts with community policing and creating a more diverse police force.

“We don’t have a police department that represents our community,” Gregory said, and added that 65 percent of the force are white officers.

Young also called for a more diverse force and even said he would initiate a national search for a new police chief.

Kelley agreed that new leadership is necessary. Since Williams took office the police department has had two police chiefs within a three year period. Bobby Cummings is the current chief that both Williams and Gregory believe is doing a good job.

After the mention of September’s police involved shooting of Jeremy Mcdole, candidates Griffiths, Cabrera, Purzycki and Marshall spent much of their two-minute allotted debate time addressing accountability.

McDole, a wheelchair bound man that police say had a gun was shot multiple times by officers last year. The McDole family has disputed that and the case is currently being investigated by a number of agencies. In fact McDole’s sister, Kiandra, was escorted out of last night’s debate for an outburst when Williams took to the mic.

Post debate, the Complexities of Color Coalition released its focused group results.  Eleven people were polled, including six women and five men.  Prior to the debate most of the people were undecided. However, by the end of the debate the majority maintained their position but walked away with a clearer understanding of each candidate.

The focus group ultimately felt that none of the candidates answered the question about the relationship between local officers and black city residents.

Candidates will get to debate public safety in a longer format on Thursday at the News Journal-WHYY sponsored program at Howard High School in Wilmington. It starts at 6:30 p.m. 

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