The Delaware Legislative Black Caucus today announced a package of initiatives to address what it described in a prepared statement as “systemic racial injustice and police brutality” impacting people of color in the First State.
Dozens of state officials gathered on the steps of Legislative Hall to support the “Justice For All Agenda” proposals.
Among the items included in the package are the following measures:
Amend the state constitution to explicitly declare that protection against discrimination based on race, color, and national origin is one of Delaware’s fundamental rights. (Senate Bill 191)
Establish an African American Task Force to explore racial disparities in Delaware, and propose remedies, “including a commitment to significant restorative investments in historically black communities over the next five years.”
Banning the police from using “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.”
Require body cameras to be used by all Delaware law enforcement agencies and mandate that those devices be activated throughout 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 record videos of all interrogations of juvenile suspects and defendants, except under certain circumstances.
Amending the Delaware Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights to allow the legal counsel of criminal defendants access to internal affairs investigation records of law enforcement officers accused of wrongdoing.
Establish a Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force — including police officers, citizens,and other stakeholders — to consider issues and proposals on the use of force, civil rights protections, transparency, and community policing.
“Systemic racism is alive and well in America,” said Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “This is a time of tremendous pain for our country, particularly for black and brown Americans who have suffered a seemingly endless march of brutality and tragedy, but it’s a time of equally tremendous hope. It has been decades since I’ve seen a moment like this — one where righteous anger is married to the motivation for timely change.”
The agenda announced today is reportedly the result of a collaborative effort between the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus, leaders of the General Assembly, the Governor’s Office, the Delaware Department of Justice, the Office of Defense Services, and other stakeholder groups.
State Senate President Pro Tem David McBride, D-Hawk’s Nest, pledged to make SB 191 “the first bill on the agenda” when his chamber meets in a virtual session on Tuesday, June 16. SB 191, which was filed on February 28 and placed in the Senate Executive Committee, has yet to receive a hearing.
Aside from SB 191, none of the bills discussed today have been filed in the House or Senate. There was no indication at the event of when the legislation would be available for public review or if the bills would be subject to the committee hearings typically required in the House and Senate.
“This is a time like no other in our lifetimes,” said Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach. “We are at an inflection point and have an opportunity to seize this moment and turn these recent tragedies into transformative change. We cannot squander it. We can’t afford to do that.”
The legislative session typically ends in the early morning hours of July 1st, although the 150th General Assembly could be called into session at any time up until Election Day this November.
Source: Delaware State House of Representatives, House Republican Caucus