The union representing Wilmington police officers is calling out Mayor Dennis Williams after he threatened leadership changes within the Wilmington Police Department.
With the increase of violent crimes and murders within the city, Mayor Williams said on WDEL-AM radio last week that things need to change within the department or he’ll “be looking for new leadership,” which could include replacing police chief Christine Dunning and two inspectors.
Dunning, a 25 year veteran of the department, was tapped for the position by Williams last December after former chief Michael Szczerba retired.
“The mayor promised a stronger, more active Community Policing unit and then cut their numbers by more than half, he promised the formation and support of a gun squad, which was highly successful while it existed, but he ordered it disbanded after half a year of existence,” stated Sgt. Harold Bozeman, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #1. “Mayor Williams also ordered the Drug unit to be cut nearly in half… He has cancelled federal task forces, ended years long partnerships with other agencies, and kept staffing levels in the Patrol Division stagnant despite promises for more uniforms on the street, all the while shouting that he is tough on crime and that he takes responsibility for the city’s problems. Now, in an effort to explain the steady increase in crime and shootings on our street, the mayor has offered up Chief Dunning as his scapegoat.”
FOP said it stands behind the department’s leadership and asked the mayor to support the department by letting Chief Dunning do her job without interfering.
“We commend them for their efforts upon inheriting a plague of crime that grew steadily during the twelve years of the previous administration. If the chief were treated appropriately as a department head and permitted to make decisions and implement her plans as an executive, things might have started to turn around. Having a layer of review and decision making between the chief and the mayor has stymied her efforts at almost every turn. The Wilmington Police Department can never be successful as long as the chief is micromanaged from city hall.”
Wilmington City Councilman Michael Brown also issued a statement in support of both WPD and FOP.
“As chairman of the city council public safety [committee], I am in support of the chief, as well as the inspectors; I am also in support of this statement by the Fraternal Order of Police, we all are wondering what has changed the mayor’s mind, I have said all along that, the chief has not been given the opportunity to be the one to lead, and so the mayor should allow her to do her job, and; he should work harder at making this city the best it can be. [sic]”
Alexandra Coppadge, spokeswoman for the mayor, issued a statement saying the mayor stands by his comments.
“Right now, the mayor doesn’t want to replace anybody; he wants people to do their job.”