Wilmington City Councilwoman Darby details push for police reform

Sean Greene // WDEL

Wilmington City Councilwoman Shané Darby unveiled steps of reform she'd like to see the Wilmington Police Department undergo during a virtual community meeting Tuesday night.

Calling her initial presentation "foundational", Darby outlined six areas of change in what she called the "Jeremy McDole Police Reform Packet", named after the victim of a 2015 police-involved shooting that has sparked several protests.

"One thing that I wanted to do is make sure we we acknowledge Jeremy McDole for our police reform packet, and that we named it after some one of our own who is like our George Floyd, who was murdered by the police department."

The packet's main topics are: establishing Community Response Teams, Evaluating who responds to non-emergency events, evaluating the 911 call center, evaluating use of force, strengthening Wilmington's Civilian Review Board, and evaluating how WPD solves crimes.

Darby said the city could replace some officers with community response teams, where a team consisting of a combination of social workers, drug & alcohol coordinators, and mental health therapists would respond to certain non-violent calls.

"Do we need an armed police officer to answer for a car accident, or any special event? Do we need people who are armed walking around? Those are conversations that are being had, what are other ways we can look at how we respond to low-level crimes."

Darby said not having a police officer respond to events such as intoxicated people, disorderly subjects, or welfare checks, could help avoid escalating situations.

"Dealing with issues that we don't need to further criminalize certain groups of people. Homeless people don't need to be further criminalized for being homeless. People that are battling with a drug addiction don't need to be further criminalized for dealing with a drug addiction."

She also said it could help the police department focus on areas she feels is more to their core mission.

"It's going to take a weight off of our police department so that they can do what they need to do, which is respond to violent crime and solve crimes. I don't think we need them responding to a mental health crisis, ad they're not even trained to deal with the mental health population, or they're not trained to deal with drug or alcohol needs."

The second part of her reform plan is helping the 911 call center workers, and

making sure they are adequately staffed.

"We support our 911 call center reps and the work they are doing having to hear traumatic calls day in and day out from different part of the city. People in those types of positions need to be paid well, and treated well, and have the resources

to deal with the type of things they're dealing with."

Darby is also calling for a receive of Use of Force procedures, making sure police

aren't overstepping their bounds in reactions to situations.

"We really want to make sure our Use of Force policy isn't too punitive, that it isn't too harsh."

Councilwoman Darby also lamented the struggles the city's Civilian Review Board has had getting started, despite the $50,000 passed in this year's budget for its creation.

While she said she really wants the ability to get more information on the backgrounds of police officers who allegedly commit crimes, such as in the McDole case, Darby said they could act as a conduit for public feedback, with every police officer interaction should end with that officer giving an information card about the Citizens Review Board to the subject.

"Being a police officer -- you signed up for it, you went through the training, you asked to do this job -- it is a customer service job, you are interacting with the community. The community should be able to give feedback and rate you, and that's that the Civilian Review Board is."

Darby's final portion of the McDole Reform Packet is a beefing up of the WPD's Cold Case Unit.

"We just have to learn how to follow best practices and how to implement them into the Wilmington Police Department in regards to how staffing looks, training, inventory. How do we get more money into the budget to help our cold case unit?"

Darby said if the Cold Case Unit was more effective, she believes it would become a crime deterrent, citing a hypothetical situation.

"If I know that I can go outside and kill someone, and the chances of the case being solved is very low, I'm more likely to do that, right? If cold case units are locking people up left and right, and they see people are getting caught and crimes are being solves, crime has actually shown to decrease in those community."

Darby also responded to criticism she said she's received about her stance on the Wilmington Police Department.

"There is this narrative that certain city council people want to draw on me in regards to police reform about me being anti-police, about me hating police, or having some kind of hate towards them. I don't hate them, I don't hate individuals, I hate systems.

"The system was created to disenfranchise Black and Brown and poor communities. That is fact, that is truth, and I'm not going to move away from facts or truth. I have no problems with individuals who are police officers. I wish them the best. I serve in the National Guard, I'm in public safety, I wouldn't want anything to happen to anyone, but what I'm not for is for systems to stay in play and not speak out about them, and say they are problematic and being scared of what people are going to say about me, or to me, because of what I say. It is facts how they have been terrorizing Black and Brown communities since their very existence, and they still do. It is embedded to who they are, their training, their practices, into everything that exists. "

Darby said she is planning additional meetings as she works towards the specific pieces of legislation connected to her police reform agenda, and hopes to have a meeting with the Mayor's office and Police Chief Robert Tracy, saying that

everyone needs to be on board for reform to be effect.

Following Tuesday night's meeting, WDEL reached out to the Wilmington Police Department's spokesperson for comment on Darby's request for a meeting and her stance on policing, but had not heard back at the filing of this story.

Darby finished by saying she doesn't want the police to take her stance personally, emphasizing it is a systemic problem in her eyes.

"When I think of police reform, it is not hate towards anyone, it is hate for a system I don't care for too much because it is violent and needs to be stopped, but I don't know if it can be stopped. In the meantime we need to put up some barriers so that it does not have as much of a negative impact on our community."

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