Veteran police leader endorses Delaware bill on transparency and accountability for cops
Like most states, Delaware has struggled to effectively police violent crime during the pandemic. In Wilmington, the homicide clearance rate, or how many murders were solved, went down from 67% to 40%. Meanwhile, shootings increased by 50% in 2020.
But the pandemic is not the only difficulty facing those who fight violent crime. Victims and witnesses are reluctant to talk to law enforcement partly because they lack trust in the police to keep them safe. In 2013, a person shot at a group of Wilmington officers in broad daylight, wounding Delaware State Police Cpl. Richard Deskis. There were more than 20 witnesses at the scene, but no one came forward with information about the shooter, even after a substantial cash reward was offered.
Communities are also intimately aware of high-profile killings of Black people like George Floyd. Delaware resident Lymond Moses was shot by an officer while driving away after being found resting in his car. His sister told the press that her brother’s death was yet another example of deadly force by white officers against Black citizens. Officers must be held accountable when they break the rules and hurt people in the communities we serve.
A screenshot from body camera footage released by New Castle County shows Lymond Moses before he was shot by police on Jan. 13, 2021.
SB 149, a bill introduced to the Delaware legislature this week, would help address this trust problem by creating stronger transparency requirements for police misconduct records and enabling independent civilian oversight boards. I can say from experience that this is one of the best courses of action for both law enforcement and civilians.
Back in 2015, WNYC Radio in New York conducted a national survey of police misconduct records laws, finding that 23 states kept such records confidential. Delaware was and remains in that category. In contrast, police records were already public in Ohio where I served the Miamisburg Police Department during that time.
Ohio enjoys a substantially lower violent crime rate than Delaware, and a recent study discussed in Forbes magazine found that Ohio is the fifth-best state to serve as a police officer. The same study, which assigned an overall ranking based on opportunity and competition, training requirements, and job hazards and protections, ranked Delaware at 31st place.