Questionable trophy comes to light at Wilmington Police Department

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The Office of Professional Standards will be conducting a full and thorough investigation after a questionable trophy was brought to light at the Wilmington Police Department.

WILMINGTON (DE) BY DIGITAL STAFF: A questionable trophy that sat on a black detectives desk for more than two years was publicly brought to light by Wilmington City Council President Ernest Congo on Thursday February 3, 2022.

The trophy, comes to light almost two weeks following a “No Confidence” vote by city council members at a special public safety meeting on Thursday January 20, 2022.

Photo Courtesy of Ernest Congo | A questionable trophy was brought to light by Wilmington City Council President Ernest Congo on Thursday February 3, 2022.

The special meeting was to address public safety and internal departmental issues at the Wilmington Police Department. however, prior to the questionable trophy image coming to light by Congo, the Mayor’s office saw the photo of the trophy on social media and took action.

“We were not sure at the time if the photo had anything to do with the WPD but asked the Chief to check into it.,” Said the mayor’s spokesman, John Rago. “The trophy was subsequently found on a desk at WPD headquarters.”

In a news release, Wilmington City Council Public Information Officer, Yesenia Taveras said, Congo said the trophy has offended several black detectives as well as other black officers, both of rank and non-rank.

“While President Congo understands that the recipient might be ok with receiving this trophy, it has offended several black detectives as well as other black officers, both of rank and non-rank.” 

They are fearful to speak on it because of fear of getting transferred and/or retaliation, Congo said.

“There are no minority supervisors in the Criminal Investigation Division for these officers to confide in and to feel comfortable expressing their thoughts. This is an example of the culture being displayed in the WPD, and it is unacceptable.”

According to a report from the Wilmington Police Department, in the Criminal Investigations Division which consist of 47 employees, there are only six black Detectives, 1 Hispanic Detective, 29 white Detectives, and 3 Detectives with two or more races.  There is currently no person of color either black, Hispanic, or with multiple races that serve a supervisory level command such as Captain, Lieutenant, or sergeant in this division.

In the Drug, Organized Crime, and Vice Division there is only 1 black Detective and 2 Hispanic Detectives. The rest of the division consist of 14 white Detectives or supervisors. The total staffing at this division is currently 20.

Wilmington-Police-Department-Demographics-Investigative-Divisions

Our Office of Professional Standards will conduct a full and thorough investigation.” | Chief Robert Tracy

Police Chief Robert J. Tracy

In response to the trophy, Chief Robert Tracy said, “We were first made aware of this today, and immediately took action to launch an internal investigation. This is a matter we take very seriously; this message is entirely inappropriate and not in keeping with the high expectations we have for members of our department. Our Office of Professional Standards will conduct a full and thorough investigation.”

“The engraved message on the trophy reads, “Whitest Black Guy in the Office Award.”

According to Congo, “In 2019, an incident occurred within the WPD where a black male detective in the WPD Criminal Investigation Division was given a trophy during roll call as a Christmas present by his white male supervisor. The engraved message on the trophy reads “Whitest Black Guy in the Office Award.” It has been displayed on the detective’s desk for everyone to see since it was presented to him.”

In an effort to verify and confirm the trophy was on a black Detectives desk, or if it was ever in the Wilmington Police Department building, when asked, Wilmington City Council won’t release the name of the Detective or disclose the source of the image, so we were unable to verify or confirm any statements given by Congo.

Congo says council members have heard numerous sworn officers talking about the morale being extremely low among minority officers within the WPD, with higher ranking officers not being held accountable for their actions.

Photo Courtesy of Wilmington City Council | President Ernest Congo

“Access to information should be an important priority for Police Chief Tracy. I believe that public trust is vital to good community policing and maintaining accountability,” said President Congo. “By making information public, residents become better informed about Police Department operations and practices. I’ll continue to push for a more transparent process.”

In a previous news release following the “No Confidence” vote, President Congo spoke about the numerous complaints he and other council members have received from sworn officers and non-uniformed personnel about WPD leadership, but says no solutions have been discussed.

We attempted to locate these officers and employees of the Wilmington Police Department but could not find any City Council Hearings or publicly stated comments from the officers themselves to confirm they made these statements to Congo or any other city council members.

Michael Groark, President of the FOP Lodge No. 1 which represents the Wilmington Police Department, not only responded to the resolution vote but also said the FOP has not been made aware of any morale issues.

“FOP Lodge 1 is opposed to this resolution and disagrees with everything that was said in support of it. Contrary to the council president’s belief, he has no authority to speak for the rank and file of the Wilmington Police Department.,” Said Groark.

Groark added, “We are always engaged and working with Chief Tracy and the rest of the police command staff as to the working conditions and well being of all Wilmington Police officers, and furthermore are, and have always been, open to conversations with the legislative and the executive branches of Wilmington City government. To date, the FOP has not been made aware of any morale issues, however the FOP board of directors will reach out to the membership to confirm this.”

The Wilmington Police Department (WPD) Chief Robert J. Tracy has demonstrated resistance and a pattern of failure to provide information when requested, including any ideas to increase communication, transparency, diversity and police reform Congo said in a previous news release.

“I just want Chief Tracy to do the right thing. I’m not trying to fire him. I’m not trying to defund the police, although some people may, I just want to give him an opportunity to do the right thing,” said President Congo. “While there is an attempt to make the vote about one area, the growing violence in Wilmington, that is nothing more than a distraction from the very real issues permeating throughout WPD with regards to staff and community communication.”

Following the “No Confidence” vote, President Congo expressed his support for WPD and stated they alone cannot reverse the growing violence in Wilmington and that we should not continue to put additional burdens on our officers to solve the issues other policy areas have created, such as the education system. 

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