Dover’s new police chief collaborating with community

DOVER, Del. – Community leaders in Dover have high expectations for the city’s new police chief and they’re not shy about expressing their concerns. More specifically, they tell 47 ABC they want things like violent crime and police training to change.

“We want the shootings to stop,” says Pastor Rita Paige. “We want everyone to be treated fair and just.”

Dover community leaders are taking their concerns to the city’s new police chief, Tom Johnson, and he’s all ears. “I’m going to do a much better job by shutting my mouth and listening to what people have to say about what we’re dealing with, some potential strategies and what actions we can take going forward,” says Johnson.

But one thing is obvious to Johnson: he says kids are being sucked into gang activity. “Violence. Horrible violence. The death of young people before they even have a chance to understand what their full potential could have been,” he says. “That has to make you sick to think about how did we arrive at a time and place when people in their teens that aren’t even old enough for a drivers license yet are dodging bullets or even worse firing bullets.”

He believes the best way to tackle that problem is to call in the professionals. “I need to be working with the people that understand the psychology of a young middle school age person and where the risk factors are for them to become part of the gang culture.”

Pastor Rita Paige tells 47 ABC that continuing programs like the Police Athletic League may help end that cycle. “If there is money appropriated for police and youth to do some programming together to have some joint programs.”

But Paige says she’s also hopes police training becomes even more well rounded  to include de-escalation techniques. “I think sometimes understanding cultural diversity also signs of mental illness would be some good training for some of the police officers.”

Johnson says he wants to consider every possible solution. “There’s no assembly line process that’s going to deliver a product that I can drop in the center of Dover and press go and we’re good.”

Chief Johnson tells 47 ABC he plans to get into a patrol car soon, once all of his certifications are finalized, so he can get a real feel for the Capital City. Johnson also says he doesn’t believe the recent increase in crime is Dover’s “new normal”. He comes from Pennsylvania and believes a fresh set of eyes is always good to see any potential blind spots in an organization.

Categories: Delaware, Local News