Delaware FOP votes no-confidence in attorney general

DOVER — A police organization that represents 2,600 officers in Delaware voted unanimously this week to say it had no confidence in Attorney General Matt Denn.

In a statement posted to Facebook, the Delaware State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police castigated Mr. Denn, a Democrat, accusing him of “cowardice” and “pandering for votes.”

The criticism stems from the Delaware Department of Justice’s handling of two cases involving alleged police violence.

In the first case, the officer was found not guilty of assault; and the involved officers in the second incident were not charged.

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice announced it would not press charges against Wilmington police officers who fatally shot a man in a wheelchair in September.

Attorney General Matt Denn speaks at a law enforcement memorial service on Legislative Mall in Dover on Wednesday morning. (Special to The Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

Matt Denn

The shooting led to uproar from the Wilmington community and cries from some quarters for criminal charges for the officers. Some black leaders have asked the federal government to investigate the shooting.

The department’s announcement included a report that referred to the actions of one officer as “extraordinarily poor police work” and “cited serious deficiencies in the way in which the Wilmington Police Department prepares its police officers” to deal with dangerous situations.

In December, Dover Cpl. Thomas Webster IV, charged with kicking a black suspect in the face and breaking his jaw, was found not guilty of felony assault. A grand jury did not initially return an indictment on Cpl. Webster in March 2014, but the incident was reviewed after Mr. Denn took office in January 2015, and a second grand jury did indict the officer four months later.

The December verdict shocked and angered some people, especially in the black community, although it was lauded by law enforcement.

In the statement this week, the FOP said it “only wishes that AG Denn would pursue criminal convictions against Delaware’s most violent offenders with the same enthusiasm as he does against law enforcement officers.”

A spokeswoman for the department said in an email Mr. Denn was doing his job and would not act differently as a result of criticism.

“Advocates from groups having a variety of views of this incident have criticized the department’s report for not conforming to their view of the event, but the attorney general’s responsibility is to address the facts objectively as he finds them after a thorough investigation,” Nicole Byers said of the Wilmington incident.

The lodge criticized Mr. Denn for calling in multiple experts in regard to the Wilmington shooting case, alleging he made a “tenacious pursuit to prosecute a police officer.”

“It is our opinion that the attorney general has made the prosecution of a law enforcement officer his number one priority. Mr. Denn has shown that when he does not agree with the outcome of legal proceedings, he attempts to take another ‘bite from the apple,’” a portion of the statement reads.

According to the Wilmington report, Mr. Denn felt justice officials should seek to bring a felony assault charge against one officer. After speaking with several experts and analyzing the Delaware Code, he was convinced the officer’s actions did not violate state law.

According to the FOP statement, police believe inflammatory comments from Mr. Denn and others have placed them at greater risk.

President Fred Calhoun said Friday officers feel they are treated differently from the general populace by the Department of Justice and the no-confidence vote was called for to send a message both to the agency and to police.

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