The Delaware General Assembly’s Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force Transparency and Accountability subcommittee held its first meeting virtually on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.
The subcommittee members set an aggressive timeline scheduling monthly meetings with a proposed final draft of recommendations to the task force as a whole before the end of the year.
The state's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is already coming under scrutiny as part of the subcommittee's work on the Law Enforcement Officer's Bill of Rights, a civilian review board, and a disciplinary database.
Subcommittee member Charlotte King of the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice clearly stated making changes to FOIA law needed to be on the table.
"If we start this task force on the assumption of what we can't do because of existing FOIA we might as well stop right now," said King.
"We might have to recommend legislative change for FOIA to allow databases, to allow other changes in terms of a civilian review board. I'm personally not interested in starting a process where we're already putting up barriers."
King's remarks were backed during the public comment section by Rebecca Brown, policy director for The Innocence Project.
"Delaware's one of the states with the most restrictive laws in this area," said Brown.
"Currently under Delaware's Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, and its Freedom of Information law, police disciplinary records are exempt from public disclosure as personal records and the law enforcement exemption from public records is also supported by the Freedom of Information law."
Brown said making other policy recommendations then hinge on those changes.
"A database is only as good as the information it contains so repealing these kind of secrecy laws is foundational to ensuring information, including unsubstantiated complaints, so you can populate the database with comprehensive information."
The subcommittee's next virtual meeting is scheduled for September 30, 2020.