Police Chief Thomas A. Johnson Jr. held a press conference to announce a series of actions and initiatives to increase the accountability of the Dover Police Department.
Dover (DE): On Monday May 25, 2020, a man of color was in Minneapolis police custody when he died, and within days protests began to form all across America. The outcry from not only people of color but from all Americans could soon be heard all across the globe, as the public awaited justice for George Floyd.
George Floyd died shortly while an officer was seen with his knee on his neck. Later, it was learned that three other officers was also on his body in an attempt to hold him down.
This isn’t the only outcry. George Floyd was screaming “I can’t breathe”, as many others have just before dying. This scream have been heard since 1964 when the first man of color died while in police custody. The riots of 92, was the results of police brutality following the beating of Rodney King. The LA Riots went on for days targeting the community including businesses and people. Many businesses were set ablaze. White people were often attacked. Asians became under attack following the death of Latasha Harlins who was shot and killed by an Asian storekeeper, Soon Ja Du. During the riots of 92 in LA, nobody was safe.
Black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population.
And the names of those who have died while in police custody continues to grow across America. Names like Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Michelle Cusseaux, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Natasha McKenna, Walter Scott, Bettie Jones, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Eric Reason, Dominique Clayton, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, are just a hand full who died while in police custody.
The names are a reminder that so much and so little has changed. Since Jan. 1, 2015, 1,252 black people have been shot and killed by police, according to The Washington Post’s database tracking police shootings; that doesn’t even include those who died in police custody or were killed using other methods.
Now, following the George Floyd protests, riots, and clashes with police and leaders, police departments are being threatened to be defunded, and in response, police agencies and cities all across the country are taking steps to make policy changes to hold themselves more accountable to their actions, and stand up to racial injustice. Delaware is one of them.
Police killed 1,098 people in 2019.
On May 11, 2020, Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki, acted swiftly to release the Wilmington Police Department’s Use of Force Policy for public review. The Mayor was joined with Police Chief Robert J. Tracy to initiate an ongoing process for public review of policing policies—an effort to create more transparency and understanding of policing and therefore promote more support and cooperation between City police officers and residents.
The Mayor said today’s policy release is the first of many from the WPD’s policies and procedures manual. The WPD’s Use of Force Policy, redacted to preserve police strategy and operations, can be viewed and downloaded here.
“Wilmington has heard the voices calling for change and reform,” said Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki. “The massive worldwide movement to eliminate egregious police actions against people of color will continue until there is more respect and understanding for each other through policies and actions that produce racial justice. No person of color should ever have to fear a police officer or expect anything but equal treatment and justice. Wilmington’s policing policies are open for review, and while we have already implemented widely accepted policing standards, we will continue to make additional changes as needed.”
Following in Wilmington’s foot steps is the Dover Police Department. Police Chief Thomas A. Johnson Jr. held a press conference to announce a series of actions and initiatives to increase the accountability of the Dover Police Department on Thursday afternoon.
Earlier this week, Governor John Carney announced he will sign an executive order banning choke holds. The announcement came at his weekly covid-19 update.
“Next week, I will sign an executive order to ban the use of choke-holds at the Delaware State Police and Capitol Police, and require additional de-escalation training. We will stop posting mugshots of children, mandate participation in the national use-of-force database, and increase crisis intervention training and mental health services for police officers.”, Carney said. “These are first steps that we can take administratively to improve the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color.”
Carney added, “Talk is cheap. We are committed to moving forward productively – and in good faith – to make real change in Delaware. That starts with recognizing our shared history, and learning the lessons of the past.”