Wilmington’s first female police chief was officially sworn into office today during a ceremony at the city council chambers.
Chief Christine Dunning, a veteran of the Wilmington Police Department for more than 25 years, was tapped for the position in December by new mayor Dennis Williams.
“I reviewed numerous folders and I kept coming back to Captain Dunning, now Chief Dunning,” said Williams during today’s swearing in ceremony. “She is my choice. I stand behind her 150 percent. The day I sat down with her and told her she would be chief of police, I said ‘the day you think you’re going to have problems, I’ll walk with you side by side until we get everything straight’ and I still mean that.”
Dunning replaces Chief Michael Szczerba who retired earlier this week after 34 years of service. Williams added that Dunning is an example of the new kind of leadership he is brining into his administration.
“There will be more women in this administration that will lead, there will be more young people in this administration that will lead,” said Williams. “Our society has changed dramatically and we need to make every opportunity to reflect our society.”
Dunning spoke very briefly at the swearing in event where she thanked her family, Mayor Williams and co-workers for their support.
Although Dunning didn’t get into specifics about her plans for the department as chief, she said strengthening community relationships and quality of work on the force are very important.
“As I take my place among Mayor William’s administration, I look forward to working as a team to make sure this police department continues to be the premier urban law enforcement agency in the state of Delaware,” she said. “We will work hard to renew old connections and develop new relationships with the community. We will provide our officers with the best training and equipment so they can continue to do their job safely and effectively and be able to go home every night to their families. And, we will make sure the city of Wilmington has a quality police department that can provide the safety and security it needs as we move forward.”
Mayor Williams has not been shy about saying what he expects from local law enforcement. From his early campaign bid to his inaugural address, Williams said cracking down on crime and violent offenders is his number one priority.
“We have a gun problem in this city that is beyond reproach, we have a homicide rate in this city that is beyond reproach, a city with a 9.5 mile geographical area, it is totally, totally ridiculous for it to be the way it is in a city so small,” said Williams during his inaugural address earlier this week.
City not alone in the fight against violent crimes
The city of Wilmington isn’t the only one in the state taking a tough stance on violent crimes.
Earlier this week, state Sen. Robert Marshall, (D-Wilmington West) said he plans to introduce legislation to tighten up Delaware’s gun laws by banning the sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, closing the gun show loop-hole and supporting gun by-back programs.
“I find that there’s no practical reason why an assault weapon should be made available and be able to be purchased by a member of the public and I don’t see any need for the sale of multiple ammunition clips available to the public,” said Marshall.
When it comes to local law enforcement, Marshall said he recently spoke with Major Nathaniel McQueen Jr., superintendent of the Delaware State Police, regarding the availability of $200,000 in state funds to support gun by-back programs.
“The colonel and I discussed the availability of the money being made clear to the local police chiefs throughout Delaware,” said Marshall. “The colonel and I will be working on it with the governor so that that money is accessed and unwanted weapons can be turned in.”
In 2011, SB 25, a gun by-back bill sponsored by Sen. Marshall was passed by Governor Jack Markell.
According to Marshall, that legislation lead to a successful gun by-back in New Castle County, where more than 2,000 weapons were collected at two local churches.
There’s no word yet on whether Wilmington’s new chief will take advantage of the available funds and pursue the program.