Purzycki: Congo’s Police Department Criticism Baseless And Inflammatory

Mayor Purzycki Says Recent Police Department Criticism by Council President Congo is Baseless and Inflammatory and Does Not Reflect Recent Progress Regarding Diversity Goals

Mayor Mike Purzycki issued the following statement today regarding recent public comments by City Council President Trippi Congo, who has been attacking the Police Chief, Robert Tracy, and efforts to diversify the Wilmington Police Department.

“City Council President’s baseless attacks on the Wilmington Police Department is doing irreparable harm to the department and to law enforcement in the City. At a recent council meeting the President of Council, Trippi Congo, led an effort to pass a no confidence resolution against Police Chief Robert Tracy over concerns about department diversity and morale. It was an indiscriminate, all-out assault on the leadership of the police department. I said at the time that it was a sad day for Wilmington. Trippi Congo’s charges were cheap shots—easy to make but with absolutely no specifics—and that’s completely irresponsible for a person in his position.

A few days ago, the council president doubled down on his inflammatory efforts by issuing another news release, only this time he included a photo of a ‘Whitest Black Guy in the Office’ trophy given in jest to an African American detective who displayed it on his desk. First, let’s all agree that this kind of behavior has no place in our police department or any City government office, which is precisely what Chief Tracy said last week when he opened an investigation into the trophy matter. Joking about race-based issues is out of bounds, regardless of how it was intended within the police fraternity. But to suggest, without having all the facts as the Council President did, that this is somehow indicative of some defect in the culture of the department is patently false and damaging to police-community relations.

In attacking police department diversity, the Council President apparently forgot that after the 100th Police Academy graduation ceremony last April, he congratulated the Chief on department diversity because ten minority officers out of the 19 in the class had graduated, including five African American males, one African American female, one Hispanic female and three white females. Moreover, Trippi Congo ignores the fact that the upcoming 101st Police Academy is poised to be the most diverse in the City’s history. Of the 34 applicants remaining in the process, 25 are minorities, including 12 African American males, four African American females, four Hispanic males, two Hispanic females, two white females, and one male with two or more racial/ethnic backgrounds.

The Council President ought to be congratulating the two African American police officers with decades of knowledge and experience—Inspector of Administration Charles Emory and Captain Anthony Bowers—who are in charge of recruitment and have produced these very encouraging academy results. Chief Tracy knows that both the internal management and external efforts of the WPD’s candidate recruitment program must also reflect the Wilmington community, which is why the Inspector and Captain were placed in charge of WPD recruitment efforts, and why Chief Tracy has asked them to evaluate every aspect of the process and has empowered them to make changes and find new ways to continue to increase the department’s diversity.

Sixty percent of the WPD’s top leadership is minority. The Wilmington Police Department has three African American captains and one Hispanic captain out of a total of seven. The two departmental Inspectors are a white woman and a African American male. Under Chief Tracy’s leadership, of the 301 current sworn police officers, 104 (or 35%) are minorities—with 56 African American males, 15 African American females, 19 Hispanic males, 9 Hispanic females, and 4 males and 1 female from other racial or ethnic backgrounds. Of the 301 total officers, 45 (15%) are female, representing another group that has historically been a minority in policing.

The solution to low representation in any rank within the WPD is aggressive recruitment and support for minority officers, to which this department and City are deeply committed. The Council President should read the quarterly recruitment reports that are sent to Council and released publicly, because again, facts matter. The recruitment reports can be reviewed online at www.wilmingtonde.gov/government/public-safety/wilmington-police-department/join-the-wilmington-police-department.

Mr. Congo’s statements and insinuations have caused harm and are diverting attention away from our City’s most urgent priorities. Too many of our neighborhoods are among the most violent in the country. Our social structures are broken, and our support systems are inadequate. Until we improve them and uplift our struggling neighbors, we rely on our police department to keep our citizens safe. Our officers take hundreds of guns off the streets (nearly 300 last year alone), arrest those who commit unthinkable violence, and chase offenders down the darkest alleys to do it. Ironically, while Mr. Congo complained loudest about low morale, I cannot imagine anything more divisive and damaging to the department’s morale, and consequently its performance, than leveling unwarranted charges against its leadership.

My Administration is committed to diversity within the WPD. Chief Tracy has strengthened the department’s efforts in this regard since he arrived in April of 2017. I urge Council President Congo to join with me and the Chief to support the WPD’s mission to recruit men and women of color to join a most honorable profession that protects and serves the people of Wilmington.

Trippi Congo has been in office since 2009 and today he holds the highest position in the legislative branch of City government. It is his duty and responsibility to espouse points of view that have some basis in fact. There is too much misinformation and misunderstanding pulling people apart today. We must do more in Wilmington to build trust and make progress on the critical issues confronting us.”

Source: Mayor’s Office