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Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki, who last week pledged additional transparency and policy reforms to support racial justice, has acted swiftly to release the Wilmington Police Department’s Use of Force Policy for public review. The Mayor joined with Police Chief Robert J. Tracy today to initiate an ongoing process for public review of policing policies—an effort to create more transparency and understanding of policing and therefore promote more support and cooperation between City police officers and residents. The Mayor said today’s policy release is the first of many from the WPD’s policies and procedures manual. The WPD’s Use of Force Policy, redacted to preserve police strategy and operations, can be viewed and downloaded here. “Wilmington has heard the voices calling for change and reform,” said Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki. “The massive worldwide movement to eliminate egregious police actions against people of color will continue until there is more respect and understanding for each other through policies and actions that produce racial justice. No person of color should ever have to fear a police officer or expect anything but equal treatment and justice. Wilmington’s policing policies are open for review, and while we have already implemented widely accepted policing standards, we will continue to make additional changes as needed.” The Mayor and Police Chief also announced today that Wilmington’s policing policies comply with the “8 Can’t Wait” policing reforms supported here and around the country by millions of people who have taken to the streets to protest irresponsible and deadly policing practices.
The “8 Can’t Wait” policies and the corresponding Wilmington police practices are as follows: Ban chokeholds and strangleholds – Under the WPD Use of Force Policy, these are considered deadly force and are prohibited. Require de-escalation – WPD policy requires de-escalation, and officers are given extensive training on these tactics in keeping with best-practice standards in the law enforcement profession. Require warning before shooting – The use of force continuum in WPD policy includes verbal commands and warnings. Require that police exhaust all alternatives before shooting – WPD use of force policy includes a continuum that requires use of force proportionate to the actions of a suspect and requires exhausting all alternatives prior to discharging a firearm. Duty to intervene – WPD policy requires officers to intervene if they observe excessive use of force by another officer, even if those other officers are not involved in the incident. Ban shooting at moving vehicles – WPD policy includes this prohibition, except when a vehicle is being used as a deadly force instrument by a suspect. Require use of force continuum – WPD policy includes a use of force continuum for which all officers are trained. Require comprehensive reporting – WPD policy includes a robust reporting and review process following use of force, which includes an investigation by supervisors and the Office of Professional Standards. Last week, Mayor Mike Purzycki and Council President Hanifa Shabazz said they would support various racial justice reforms, including a review of the Wilmington Police Department’s use of force policies; sharing additional information from the WPD Policy and Procedures Manual to better inform residents while not compromising police strategy and operations; and a commitment to the use of body cameras by the Wilmington Police Department without delay. The Mayor will immediately make available $800,000 in City funds that would otherwise be required to match an $800,000 Federal grant for which the City has applied. If the grant is denied, the Mayor and Council will identify additional funding to implement the police body camera program and support efforts to create a police review board with the understanding that this is a complicated undertaking requiring legislative action and changes to labor contracts.