Letter of Support and Commitment to Delaware’s Black Community and the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus

Delaware General Assembly
State of Delaware
411 Legislative Avenue
Dover, Delaware 19901

We, the undersigned, submit this open letter as elected Delaware legislators who have been appalled by police actions of the last few weeks. We have been equally appalled by the attempt to shift focus to “looters”, seemingly to distract attention from the cry of racism and black disenfranchisement.

The recent events surrounding and following the brutal public murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by four members of that city’s police force have once more brought into focus a certain unforgiveable inhumanity that exists. It’s time for political leaders who are not persons of color to stop simply saying “we understand, we feel your pain, we feel your frustration”, and all the other clichés that we so often use to suggest empathy and sympathy. We are privileged but privilege comes at the expense of those who are deprived. Privilege also carries a responsibility and we must make changes, dramatic changes, life altering changes and we must make them today.

As legislators who are not persons of color we have a duty to our constituents, our children, and our fellow legislators who are persons of color to not only speak out but to take action. We must show our commitment to ending racism and economic injustice. We can and must do more. We have a duty to be the leaders that our constituents elected us to be. We must address racial disparities. We must be brave enough to put our voices forth and commit to change. We are going to be the change that we need to be.

We have always been stunned by the suggestion that it is the fault of the underdog that they do not do enough to help themselves or make changes. It is NEVER the responsibility of the oppressed to be the catalyst. It is the duty of the suppressor to change, and for elected leaders to ensure that these changes occur.

Legislators can and must make critical changes in law to reverse cultural discrimination and economic disenfranchisement.

We will be working with our colleagues to propose a Bill of Rights, encompassing legislation and policies which will help ensure basic economic and social fairness. Following is a list of some of those proposals but note that the list is not all-encompassing.

  • Total commitment to the “Justice For All Agenda” announced by the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus at their 6/10/2020 press conference.
  • Revisit and reform the Police Officers’ bill of rights to allow more transparency and oversight that is inadequate in the current version.
  • Amend criminal statutes governing excessive uses of force to hold police officers accountable for reckless behavior.
  • Reviewing Training and Education of Officers. Training academies for all law enforcement must review current use of force training standards for law enforcement and develop model training standards to ensure that all officers receive the best instruction in their interactions with the public.
  • Create mental health initiatives and offering targeted mental health supports for officers to deal with trauma and reduce stigma for getting help.
  • Strengthening of rules for police to live by regarding interactions with minority community members, training for police, and swift punishment when they do not abide by civil obedience laws.
  • Encourage and assist municipalities and Counties in the creation of local citizen advisory boards.
  • Help hotlines and follow up for minorities and families who have been misserved.
  • Creation of a Delaware State Law Enforcement Advisory Commission that reviews allegations of misconduct by law enforcement personnel.
  • $15/hour minimum wage.
  • Equal access to health care.

Representative Paul Baumbach

Representative Earl Jaques

Representative Ray Seigfried

Representative David Bentz

Representative John Kowalko

Senator David Sokola

Representative Gerald Brady

Senator Harris McDowell

Representative John Viola

CC:
Governor Carney
Lt. Governor Hall-Long Attorney General Jennings Chief Defender O’Neill Delaware General Assembly Senator Carper
Senator Coons
Representative Blunt-Rochester Delaware NAACP
Delaware ACLU
Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League


The Justice for All Agenda previously announced by the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Passage of Senate Bill 191, the first leg of an amendment to the Delaware Constitution that would explicitly make protection against discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin a fundamental right.
  • Establishment of an African American Task Force entrusted with exploring the disparities experienced by people of color throughout Delaware and proposing remedies to address those inequities, including a commitment to significant, restorative investments in historically Black communities over the next 5 years.
  • Banning knee holds, choke holds and similar acts of applying force or pressure against the trachea, windpipe, carotid artery or jugular vein unless deadly force is necessary.
  • Requiring that body camera devices be used by all law enforcement agencies in Delaware and mandating that those devices be activated from the beginning to the end of all interactions with suspects or witnesses.
  • Prohibiting Delaware law enforcement agencies from releasing mug shots or other photographs of juvenile defendants.
  • Requiring that all Delaware law enforcement agencies video record all interrogations of juvenile suspects and defendants except under certain circumstances.
  • Amending to the Delaware Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights to allow criminal defendants’ legal counsel to receive internal affairs investigation records of law enforcement officers accused of wrongdoing.
  • Establishment of a Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force made up of a wide range of stakeholders, including police officers and impacted citizens, assigned with considering additional issues and proposals regarding the use of force, civil rights protections, transparency and community policing.
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