Two Delaware police agencies share dual jurisdiction

Public safety in the city of Wilmington and New Castle County was reinforced today as officers from both the city and the county were officially sworn in with dual jurisdiction.

New Castle County Police Chief Elmer E.M. Setting and many of his officers took the oath for Wilmington presented by Wilmington Police Chief Christine Dunning.

Dunning and her officers were then sworn into New Castle County by Chief Setting.

“Myself and Chief Dunning, we both believe that we’re all standing behind the same badge,” said Setting. Yes, one says Wilmington, one says New Castle County, but Chief Dunning and I both have spoken on so many occasions and we have the same belief system that policing is more complicated, it’s very expensive, you can’t just order up another 100 officers, you have to have greater communication and cooperation. We have to work together.”

The swearing in comes more than a month after New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon announced during the county’s annual budget address that the two departments would share jurisdiction to increase safety and help streamline investigations.

According to both chiefs, there have been many examples of situations where dual jurisdiction could have helped officers.

“One of the pursuits that spring to mind for me wasn’t that long ago,” explained Setting. “Where the Wilmington Police Department was acting in good faith, conducting the investigation, they end up in pursuit, they have criminal charges and the individuals fled into New Castle County. They hit a house, there was damage, there were injuries and their [officers’] hands were tied. Now you’re in New Castle County, you abide by our rules, our investigation, our techniques and we have to come out and assist you and make sure it’s done our way.”

With dual jurisdiction, Wilmington officers would be able to complete their pursuits in New Castle County and receive backup from county officers. The same applies to the county.

“The biggest thing is, the city is only 15 square miles so, for some reason especially on the boundaries where they touch, if one of their officers are in trouble, we probably might be able to get some of our officers out there quicker in a situation,” explained Dunning. “Or, say there’s a robbery on the Walgreen’s on Maryland Ave., our officers can get there, stabilize the situation and then the county can come in and help us out.”

Dunning said it will also cut down on court confusion.

“I think it will help blur these disputes sometimes that we have with the courts on jurisdictional boundaries because the criminals don’t know the boundaries and hopefully some of the legal challenges that we’ve had over the years over jurisdiction will be decreased,” added Dunning.

The officers that were unable to make it to the ceremony will be sworn in during the agencies’ roll calls.

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