Wilmington City Council approves new tasers, narcotics enforcement overtime

Sean Greene Via WDEL

Wilmington Police were authorized by city council Thursday to apply for grants for new tasers and overtime funding for narcotics investigations.

The combined $88,700 both come from the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security, with no matching funds from the city.

Despite the lack of cost to the city, City Councilwoman Shané Darby joined Council President Trippi Congo in voting against the two proposals.

"It just doesn't sit right with me to approve overtime to have a more tired force to increase pre-existing implicit bias when we already know it's an issue in all departments, including the Wilmington Police Department, in regards to racism and implicit bias in how they treat Black and Brown people in Wilmington," Darby said before the vote on overtime.

The council spent more time debating the purchase of 20 tasers, with the plan to give one to each officer in the upcoming police academy.

Darby said she doesn't believe they're used equitably.

"They're used highly on Black children; they're used four times more likely than the rate of white people is used on Black people, tasers. They are deadly, and most of the research of tasers, when deadly, 90% of them were unnecessary force, there was no serious threat."

Yolanda McCoy said she understand Darby's point, but that it was a reasonable alternative for when an officer doesn't want to use a gun.

"It is a non-lethal weapon. I want to make certain we give our officers ways to apprehend or stop people they are chasing without anyone life being ended," said McCoy.

Chris Johnson supported both proposals, but said, like Darby, he would like to see city council and Wilmington Police look for grant money in areas closer to community policing, but said it's tough to pass up money for something that is used in the department.

"A lot of this money comes from the state, so it's something we'll have to talk to

our colleagues from Dover--why this free money is coming for this type of thing and not another."

Darby said purchasing the "torture devices" sends the wrong message.

"Whatever we end up being paid, I don't want to encourage the abuse of power, torture devices, use of force, and they are, and can be deadly."

City council will also be having another conversation about the "blight bill" that was introduced for the first time this session by Councilwoman Maria Cabrera. That will go to committee after being sponsored by seven council members.

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