WILMINGTON (DE): On Tuesday, The Department of Justice’s Division of Civil Rights & Public Trust (DCRPT) released a supplemental report regarding the September 23, 2015 police shooting of Jeremy McDole.
According to the Department of Justice, “After the DOJ was presented in June with claims of new evidence and concerns about the validity of firearms evidence cited in the original May 12, 2016 report, Attorney General Kathy Jennings instructed DCRPT to review the entire case as well as any new evidence.”
The 9-page report details reviews of evidence cited in the 2016 report as well as the following:
Based on all available evidence, the report does not find cause to doubt evidence cited in the 2016 report or to change charging decisions., the report says.
“DCRPT got to work as soon as we were presented with questions about the 2016 report,” said Attorney General Jennings. “I continue to take the utmost pride in their work, their sense of urgency, and their professionalism. But I also know how heavily this case has weighed on many Delawareans – and especially on the McDole family, whose tribulations have been public and heartbreaking, and who I am grateful to know are surrounded by a supportive community.
“The findings detailed in this report are thorough and unambiguous and I thank DCRPT for their diligence. Charging decisions under the laws at the time have not changed. Neither has our resolve for reform. We cannot undo the tragedies of the past, but we can work to prevent them from reoccurring. I will continue to advocate for the establishment of a Statewide Civilian Review Board with subpoena power, mandatory statewide participation in a Do Not Hire Database, and the codification of an objective use of force standard.”
“Improving police and community relations, protecting neighborhood residents from the upsurge of shootings, and taking more guns and criminals off the streets remain at the top of our list,” said the Mayor.
WILMINGTON (DE): Thankful to the voters of Wilmington, Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki remains humbled and honored by being given another opportunity to lead the great City of Wilmington.
This will be Purzycki’s second four year term as Wilmington Mayor.
In a release from the Mayor’s Office, Mayor Purzycki said it is his hope that Administration and City Council can work more closely on multiple fronts because the City is facing multiple challenges. Divided, he said, the branches of City government will likely accomplish little, but together we can accomplish a great deal.
Mayor Purzycki said his Administration has already begun to refocus efforts on some top priorities which desperately need resolution. “Improving police and community relations, protecting neighborhood residents from the upsurge of shootings, and taking more guns and criminals off the streets remain at the top of our list,” said the Mayor. “Continued gun violence during this pandemic is not something we will tolerate, and we will be addressing this issue publicly with defined solutions in the very near future.” Equally important, said the Mayor, is to gain Council passage of a revised City Housing Code so renters, which represent the majority of the City’s population, no longer have to endure negligent landlords who are making a profit while children and families live in squalor.
Regarding Tuesday’s election results, Mayor Purzycki said he wishes Council President Hanifa Shabazz well and will miss her leadership of Council. “With changes coming to the Council, I look forward to working with Trippi Congo and all Members on solutions to a variety of issues confronting our City,” said the Mayor. “I welcome the new members and am confident we will work well together.”
Mayor Purzycki today expressed his sincere thanks to those who voted for him on Tuesday. “I am very appreciative of your support and the confidence you have shown in this Administration. I congratulate Velda Jones-Potter and Justen Wright for a spirited, hard fought campaign. And, I appeal to those who voted for Justen or Velda to work in unison with me and City Council to make Wilmington a more just City where opportunity and prosperity is available to all.”
Mayor Purzycki said some of Wilmington’s current challenges existed long before COVID-19 changed our world. But, he said, while the pandemic has made matters worse for residents and businesses and caused City government to lose millions of operating dollars, the goal now is to pull the local economy back together as we continue to cope and then recover from this virus.
At the same time, the Mayor said we must work together and continue to mount a significant effort to achieve racial and social justice. “The past six months have taught us a great deal about our resilience, but also about our needs, our frustrations, and our anger regarding the long history of failure to achieve true equality. I would also hope that these past six months have opened more eyes and hearts to the hard work ahead to bring gun violence under control, lift people out of poverty, improve our education and housing systems, and provide physical and mental health support to those who need it most. Wilmington needs everyone to come together now because there is so much more work to do, and I know from the past four years that trying to do it without some consensus will stifle any progress we can make.”
The Mayor said he is extremely optimistic about the City’s future and accepts with appreciation the decision of the voters to continue ongoing efforts to make the City safer, keep the City cleaner, and improve the living and working conditions of everyone who has invested in Wilmington as a place to live, work and raise their families.
The decision to remove the whipping post was made in response to calls from the community and in recognition of the violence and racial discrimination that its display signified to many Delawareans.
Georgetown (DE): Tomorrow, July 1, The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will remove a whipping post from public display on the grounds of the Old Sussex County Courthouse near the Circle in Georgetown.
“Finally, Delaware is removing its last ‘Red Hannah,’ the whipping post, from the public’s view,” said Dr. Reba Hollingsworth, vice-chair of the Delaware Heritage Commission. “Such relics of the past should be placed in museums to be preserved and protected for those who want to remember the cruel, inhuman, barbarous acts perpetrated on our citizens.”
The post will be moved to a Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (HCA) storage facility with other historical objects and artifacts, including a whipping post that once stood near The Green in Dover.
“It is appropriate for an item like this to be preserved in the state’s collections, so that future generations may view it and attempt to understand the full context of its historical significance,” said HCA Director Tim Slavin. “It’s quite another thing to allow a whipping post to remain in place along a busy public street – a cold, deadpan display that does not adequately account for the traumatic legacy it represents, and that still reverberates among communities of color in our state.”
HCA intends to work with historians, educators and leaders of the African American community in Delaware to explore plans for future display of this artifact in a museum setting, where it can be properly contextualized and interpreted.
This whipping post was located on the grounds of the Sussex Correctional Institution south of Georgetown. The facility was established in 1931, but the exact date this particular post was installed is not known. In 1992, the warden donated the post to HCA. The post was installed for public display at the state-owned Old Sussex County Courthouse site in September of 1993.
The history of corporal punishment in Delaware goes back to the earliest days of colonial settlement and included the use of the whipping post and the pillory in all three counties into the 20th century. These punishments were imposed for a variety of crimes throughout history and were disproportionately applied to persons of color. Those sentenced to the whipping post could be lashed up to 40 times for a single offense.
Dr. Hollingsworth, a lifelong Delaware educator, historian and civil rights advocate, witnessed a whipping in her childhood that still lives in her memory:
“When I was a child in the late 1930s, I saw a man being whipped at the Kent County jail at the corner of New and Water Streets in Dover. On a Saturday morning, my dad, Solomon Ross, had driven to Dover from Milford to conduct some business. When he saw the crowd gathered at the front of the jail, he parked his car and he, my sister Vivienne and I joined the crowd around the wire mesh fence, which surrounded the jail yard.
There, we saw a man, naked to his waist, with his wrists shackled to an eight-foot post, being whipped by a man with a cat-o-nine-tails that had a short handle with nine rawhide thongs, which appeared to be about 18 inches long.
Even though the whipping occurred more than 80 years ago, I still remember the eerie silence that was pierced by the lashes of the whip. After each lash, the warden would loudly count each lash.
I don’t remember how many lashes the man received that day, but the incident is a vivid memory every time I pass the jail on New Street, even though Red Hannah has been removed. When I drive around the Circle in Georgetown, my childhood emotions fill my heart.”
The last use of the whipping post in Delaware took place in 1952. Delaware was the last state to abolish the whipping post, removing the penalty from state law in 1972 through an act of the General Assembly signed by Gov. Russell Peterson.
Wilmington (DE): The budget amendment will provide $400,000 in local matching funds while Wilmington awaits word on a federal grant that will be used to cover the remaining $542,000 balance of the body camera program for Fiscal Year 2021. A synopsis of the budget ordinance, amending the City’s General Fund as well as the Police Department’s Special Fund, is presented at the conclusion of this news release.
The Mayor and Police Chief Robert J. Tracy said when the City and federal funding are combined, body cameras will be worn by all Wilmington Police Department (WPD) uniformed personnel.
Wilmington City Council President Hanifa Shabazz and six other members of Council today announced their support for the budget amendment, guaranteeing its approval in August when Council returns from a summer recess. The Council members supporting the budget amendment, in addition to the Council President, are the Chair and Co-Chair of the Council Public Safety Committee, Loretta Walsh and Chris Johnson respectively, Zanthia Oliver, Michelle Harlee, Ciro Adams, and Charles “Bud” Freel.
“City government is coping with a COVID-related revenue loss of $13.6 million and at the same time, we want to move forward as quickly as possible with the body-cam program, but we have to do it in a way that does not drain our limited local resources, which are needed for City services and staff. The federal grant will allow us to purchase the cameras and other associated equipment while the amendment to the recently enacted FY 2021 budget will set aside funding for the hiring of police personnel to manage the camera program,” said Mayor Purzycki. “I am grateful to the Council President and the other Council members who are supporting this action because it will help move the body camera program forward as we plan for a fall implementation.”
Mayor Purzycki repeated his pledge today that should Wilmington not receive a federal grant to support this program, the City is committed to immediately identifying the funding to implement police body cameras.
Chief Tracy said the policies that will guide the body camera program, as well as the storage and sharing of video and other administrative requirements, have already been developed and are being reviewed by the City’s Law and Human Resources (HR) Department. HR Director Charlotte B. Barnes said the policy has been shared with FOP Lodge #1, the police union.
“The Council supports police reforms such as the body camera program because we know it will help build trust between the community and police officers,” said Council President Shabazz. “Wilmington has made progress with public safety in recent years and anything we can do to promote transparency and accountability on everyone’s part, we will do it.”
Earlier this month, the Purzycki Administration made public the WPD Use of Force policy as the initial release of the WPD Policy and procedures Manual. Last week, additional sections of the manual—Chapters One, Five, Seven, and Eight—were released. These sections relate generally to the organization of the police department, duties and responsibilities; probation, resignation, retirement, and reinstatement; procedures; general conduct; and the administration of discipline. The WPD Manual can be viewed online here.
Mayor Purzycki and Chief Tracy said the ongoing public review of policing policies is intended to create more transparency and understanding of policing to promote more support and cooperation among City police officers and residents.
Budget Amendment Synopsis
To administer the body camera program, the WPD will increase its authorized strength from 315 officers to 319. The Police Department’s General Fund Personal Services budget will be increased by $400,000 to fund the cost of salaries and benefits for the four new sworn officers. Body cameras for 319 sworn officers, related software, and offsite electronic storage of camera recordings will be provided by Axon Enterprise, Inc. as part of a five-year City contract. The first contract year will cost $542,388, which will be covered by a federal grant. The total fiscal impact and budget appropriation increase to the FY 2021 Budget for the Police Department body camera program is $942,388, inclusive of all Funds. The appropriation from the General Fund of $400,000 will be taken from the City’s Tax Stabilization Reserve. The effect to the Special Funds is $542,388, which will be funded with a federal grant.
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