Delaware: Police Accountability NOW

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For decades, Delaware police officers have enjoyed special layers of protection in incidents of police misconduct through policies and laws that allow harmful practices like excessive use of force and block public access to body-cam recordings and investigations.

Under current laws in Delaware, the public is not guaranteed any transparency in a police-involved incident. In fact, Delaware’s Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) makes public access to police investigations nearly impossible. As a result, the public has no insight on why an incident occurred, what could have been done to prevent it, or what disciplinary actions, if any, happened as a result of the investigations. Delaware’s LEOBOR statute is the worst in the nation for transparency, making the state a leader in police secrecy.

LEOBOR also prevents community-led groups, such as community oversight boards, from effectively reviewing, investigating, and disciplining officers in misconduct cases. No other Delaware public employees enjoy equivalent protections when it comes to disciplinary matters.

Other laws that allow excessive use of force and body-worn camera footage to remain held from the public are additional tools that actively fuel further incidents of police misconduct — and grow the deep divide of trust between communities in Delaware and the officers who are sworn to serve and protect them.

In 2020, in response to nationwide and local protests calling for immediate and meaningful police reform after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus formed the Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force (LEATF). The LEATF was tasked with recommending reforms that the General Assembly can make to create real, actionable changes in Delaware. After nearly a year, no official recommendations have been made, no police reform legislation has been introduced, and police misconduct has continued unchecked throughout the state, including the murder of Lymond Moses in Wilmington in January 2021.

On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, a jury found Minnesota officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the murder of Mr. Floyd. — an outcome that’s extremely rare in cases of police misconduct. So rare, in fact, that Delaware has never seen a similar conviction, despite the fact that more than 31 Delawareans have been killed by police in our state since 2005.

In the wake of continued police brutality, and to ensure that the Chauvin verdict doesn’t become a forgotten moment of accountability, advocates are coming together to push for immediate reform in Delaware. We're launching the Delaware: Police Accountability NOW (D:PAN) campaign because we want to see swift and meaningful legislative action to increase accountability and transparency in policing.

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Partners on This Effort Include

  • ACLU of Delaware
  • Delaware Campaign for Smart Justice Policing Workgroup
  • NAACP of Delaware
  • Network Delaware
  • Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League’s Building People Power Campaign
  • Not Just Another Protest

Our Campaign Goals

  1. Revise the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) to make police disciplinary records and use of force reports public record.
  2. Amend LEOBOR to allow community oversight boards that can review, investigate, and discipline officers in misconduct cases to be established in cities across Delaware.
  3. Revise the standards and practices for use of force so that officers can be held accountable when they engage in unconstitutional use of force.
  4. Implement body-worn cameras, require them to be turned on during all police and community interactions, and make that footage public.

Legislation

Senate Bills 147 & 148: Use of Force
Sponsored By: Senator Marie Pinkney

SB 147 creates a requirement that when using force, both non-lethal and lethal, an officer must “reasonably believe” that they are in danger in order to justify use of force. The law, as currently written, uses the term “believes,” which leaves unlimited room for an officer to justify use of force, whether it was warranted or not. This bill makes it clear  that use of force must be justified by what a reasonable person would have believed, rather than what the officer in question believed.
SB 148 expands the Attorney General’s ability to investigate non-lethal use of force incidents and requires that race data is tracked and reported in use of force incidents. 

SB 147 & 148 have passed both chambers and await Governor action.

Senate Bill 149: Reforming LEOBOR
Sponsored By: Senator Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman

SB 149 removes the confidentiality clause from the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) and makes police disciplinary records public. SB 149 also enables the creation of community oversight boards at a state, county, or municipal level with the power to hear and decide police disciplinary matters, gather data about misconduct, provide reports of trends in discipline, make recommendations regarding policy/training, and issue subpoenas.

SB 149 has reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and awaits a Senate floor vote.

House Bill 195: Body-Worn Cameras
Sponsored by: Representative Sherry Dorsey Walker

HB 195, formally HA 2 for HB 195, requires certain police officers and other employees of the Department of Corrections to use body-worn cameras to record interactions with members of the public. This bill would also require the Council on Police Training to create regulations for body-worn camera use to ensure consistent use in 2022.

HA 2 for HB 195 has passed both chambers and awaits governor action.


Take Action

Sign the Petition: LEOBOR Reform NOW!
Under current laws in Delaware, the public is not guaranteed any transparency in a police-involved incident. In fact, Delaware’s Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) makes public access to police investigations nearly impossible. We can change this. Add your name to urge the Delaware legislature to support LEOBOR reform.

Add Your Name

Learn More About LEOBOR

Q.Learn More About LEOBOR
A.

Delaware’s Law-Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) has fueled police abuse incidents by making it virtually impossible to discipline police officers for misconduct or to know any details of misconduct incidents. No other Delaware public employees enjoy equivalent protections when it comes to disciplinary matters.

Meaningful changes that promote transparency and public trust must be made to the Law-Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and Freedom of Information Act. At a minimum, police disciplinary records must be public, and effective independent community oversight bodies must be established.

Transparency and accountability are necessary for due process, a fairer criminal justice system, trust between our police and communities, and trust within law enforcement agencies.

Learn More

Black Delawareans Feel the Brunt of LEOBOR

Q.Black Delawareans Feel the Brunt of LEOBOR
A.

Almost 50 percent of Delawareans who have been shot by police are Black.

Under current laws in Delaware, the public is not guaranteed any transparency in a police-involved incident. In fact, Delaware’s Law-Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) makes public access to police investigations nearly impossible. As a result, the public has no insight on why most of these 57 shootings have occurred, what could have been done to prevent them, or what disciplinary actions, if any, happened as a result of the investigations. Delaware’s LEOBOR statute is the worst in the nation for transparency, making the state a leader in police secrecy and protection.

Here’s what we do know: Delaware over-polices Black communities, using decades of tough-on-crime-era narratives to justify harsh policing tactics and increased police violence in these communities. We only need to look as far as our state’s history of mass incarceration to see this is true — Black Delawareans make up less than 25 percent of our state’s population, but make up over 60 percent of our prison population.   

Why do police shootings keep happening? Why does it continue to be Black Delawareans who are disproportionately shot and killed? Because officers know they’re protected by LEOBOR, police union contracts, and a racist narrative that has served law enforcement well for decades: that Black people commit the most crimes, and that police are responsible for keeping communities safe from those crimes. 

Neither of those narratives are true, and an essential part of moving police reform ahead is recognizing those manipulative stories we’ve been fed and changing them to reflect the reality: over-policing of Black communities in Delaware is a direct result of systemic racism, and Black Delawareans are not safe under the watch of police who are meant to serve and protect them. And none of that will change unless we start taking real action to reform policing in our state, starting with increasing transparency and accountability through LEOBOR reform.