Police accountability task force holds initial meeting

DOVER — A group created by lawmakers earlier this summer to review police conduct in the wake of national outrage and protests held its first meeting today. The session, held online, served simply as an introduction to the process, with the chairmen laying out a broad goal and plan.

The Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force, formed in June after the killing of a black man in Minneapolis at the hands of a white city cop, will be split into four subcommittees to tackle several aspects of policing. Members will report back to lawmakers at some point before the mid-2022 deadline.

Those subcommittees are focused on use of force and imminent danger, transparency and accountability, community policing and engagement, and workforce development.

The first of those four will look at “a statutorily created use of force standard as well as the implementation of a definitive imminent danger policy” to “encourage police officers to employ all tactics necessary to avoid using deadly force.”

Transparency and accountability will focus on the disciplinary process to “allow for greater accountability for misconduct, including amending the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights and establishing civilian review boards.”

Rep. Franklin Cooke

Community policing and engagement will examine policing standards proposed by the federal government and the expansion of “citizen-involved public safety outreach across the state, as well as increased crisis intervention services and ongoing proactive mental health care for every police officer in Delaware.” Workforce development will center on diversity, as well as training around de-escalation and other programs.

Membership of the subcommittees should be finalized in the next few days.

The task force was established at the urging of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus, which aims to fight systemic racism. Members of the task force include several lawmakers, community activists and police officers.

Because of coronavirus, most of the meetings will be held virtually through Zoom. Members of the public can tune in through the General Assembly’s YouTube account at www.youtube.com/channel/UCmePiLcN2Ee8cWOEBuUxG1g/videos. They can also email recommendations, criticisms or questions to LEOTaskForce@delaware.gov, with Rep. Franklin Cooke, a New Castle Democrat who is co-chairing the group, urging anyone who has thoughts on policing to weigh in.

Rep. Cooke and the other co-chair, Darryl Parson, expressed a hope of doing something to help address structural racism and police brutality. Police play a valuable role in society and should be thanked for that, the men said, but not every officer acts appropriately.

“Cops who violate police rights need to be held accountable, period,” Rep. Cooke, himself an ex-New Castle County officer, said. “No excuses. Bad cops should not be wearing a uniform.”

Members agreed Thursday data could offer a valuable look at police violence (or lack thereof) and asked some basic questions about the task force’s procedures. A second meeting date has not yet been officially set.