NAACP calls for abolishing some Delaware use-of-force laws

WILMINGTON – Citing recent deadly interactions with law enforcement officers past and present nationwide, the Delaware NAACP State Conference of Branches on Sunday urged state officials to abolish some laws connected to police use-of-force policies.

In a news release, the state NAACP organization said it “is concerned that the Delaware Code provides Delaware police officers extra latitude in the use of excessive and deadly force, all of which have been enforced repeatedly to protect police officers from criminal prosecution.”

The NAACP called on Delaware Gov. John Carney, Attorney General Kathleen Jennings and General Assembly members to begin the process of abolishing the laws. An attempt to reach Gov. Carney for comment on Monday was not immediately successful.

When announcing the call for action, the NAACP cited the recent police-involved death of George Floyd in Minnesota, along with fatal cases in Georgia and Kentucky; past incidents in Wilmington and New Castle were also referenced.

The NAACP said that while an officer in Mr. Floyd’s case was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, the actions of three other officers involved warrant charges as well.

Delaware Code laws cited by the NAACP included:

• Title 11- Section 464, which states in part “the use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the defendant believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting the defendant against the use of unlawful force by the other person on the present occasion.”

• Title 11- Section 467, which states in part “the use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when (1) the defendant is making an arrest or assisting in making an arrest and believes that such force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest.”

• Title 11- Chapter 92, which is the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. It provides protection in investigations that are not afforded to all citizens and allows the results of investigations to be concealed from the public, the NAACP said.

The NAACP said it “believes that the majority of police officers act in a professional manner and perform their jobs with integrity.

“However, in an effort to prevent future occurrences throughout Delaware and impede situations comparable to the George Floyd murder and its aftermath, we are calling upon (Gov. Carney, AG Jennings and the Delaware General Assembly) to begin the process of abolishing, with all deliberate speed, the three laws cited.”

Also, the NAACP submitted peremptory requests including:

• The daily use of body cameras for all police officers throughout the state of Delaware.

• The establishment of a Civilian Police Review Board within each police agency that has subpoena power.

• The implementation of an Imminent Danger policy that directs police officers to not place themselves in situations where they have to use deadly force.

• The recruitment and hiring of black and brown police officers that better reflect the demographics of our communities.

• The ban of the use of knee holds as acceptable in Use of Force Continuums within all police departments.

• A review of the state of Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to determine if the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights is in direct conflict with the spirit and intention of FOIA. The NAACP said that in its view, it is and requires abolishment accordingly.

• A review of all police department’s records of disciplining or charging officers charged with misconduct.

• Increased crisis intervention services and ongoing proactive mental health services for police officers.