Addressing police accountability and transparency with legislation
DELAWARE – In Delaware, a trio of bills were introduced that are slated to address police reform, and all of this comes on the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. Now, some members in the Delaware community want police reform, and three bills making their way through the general assembly could possibly do that. “Our communities don’t want to do away with policing, they want policing that they can trust and they want to have a collaborative relationship,” says one of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Elizabeth Lockman.
We’re told three senate bills are going to address some key subjects when it comes to policing, transparency and accountability between the community and the police. “It doesn’t specifically outline how that would look, doesn’t establish them but it makes sure we’re clearing a path for those to exist effectively,” says Sen. Lockman.
Senate bill 147 would change the way police conduct themselves. Instead of a subjective standard, police would take an objective standard. Basically they would look at what a reasonable person would have believed, rather than what the defendant believed. Senate bill 148, would expand the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust’s responsibility to now review cases involving serious physical injury, and the report given must include the race of the person. Meanwhile, the third bill, Senate bill 149, allows the public access to records of police misconduct. “It’s not enough for us just to look at cases when people lost their lives, we should be concerned about the steps that lead up to that,” says another bill sponsor, Senator Marie Pinkney.
A retired police officer and current member of the Delaware general assembly agrees with some lawmakers and says, “There is an opportunity to ruin that public trust if you have a bad police officer out there, that’s not what police agencies want,” says Representative Steve Smyk. He also believes police agencies should look at ways to improve themselves. However, he states he’s not sure if these bills will do that in the best way.
Talk of implementing civilian review boards is also apart of the legislation, and he tell us that this could be problematic. “Who is going to check out who’s on the civilian board? Should they not have a certain intellect and knowledge of policing that’s local to us, not compare Delaware’s advances to something very barbaric in another jurisdiction,” says Rep. Smyk. He adds, “There’s a whole lot of dangers out there that our lawmakers have no clue what they are messing with.”
Smyk also says, some of these bills do create an opportunity for community members to learn about how police operates. However, he believes there should be more research done as to what can be improved in Delaware.
Although these bills are just a small part in the effort to reform police, lawmakers and Rep. Smyk says, there is more work to be done on all levels; community, legislation, and police agencies.
The three bills have been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee for review.