"I fought reasonably for these officers, but in return, young people have been shot, and now they're beating the crap out them," said Councilman Jea Street, co-chair of the Public Safety Committee, addressing the group as a whole, but also in particular, New Castle County Police Chief Col. Vaughn Bond during the most recent meeting.
Street wants changes to Title 11 464 and Title 11 467, Delaware codes that outline the structure and protections for law enforcement officers involved in Use of Force incidents, but codes which Street said lead to abuse of policing powers.
For roughly 20 minutes, Street outlined calls and incidents involving his constituents over his years as a council member he said laid out the history of problematic policing in his county.
"Until they change, I am not going to support anything that comes forward for grants for additional money for police--be it federal, be it state--I'm not going to support any more extra money to increase the authorized strength, or to have any academies," he said. "Why should I support additional funding for people that I know full-well have a history--what I've just gone through, only with the county--for the past 15 years, regardless of what you do or how much you try to help them, they're still going to beat the crap out of my kids, and shoot them whenever they feel like. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. But I'm going to stay on this battlefield, in-office, out-of-office. If I go out, I'll go out standing on my conscience...I want to make it clear to you all today, I want to make it clear why I will not support any funding for this police agency as long as those laws exist, and as long as this foolishness is allowed to go on and continue. Enough, in my view, is enough."
Street found support from most council members who chose to voice an opinion. President Pro Tempore Penrose Hollins declared police agencies receive a lion's share of the county's public safety funding, but can often be found lacking in providing that safety for black Americans.
"I think it's about time that we stand up for the people that we know have been wronged for generations," he said. "If we continue to do nothing, we will get nothing. So I stand with you. There's no will in this state and its governance in the state--whether it be county, city, or the state of Delaware--to make any change. We're getting the same thing we got when Dr. [Martin Luther] King was around. So all the marches that have occurred, all the demonstrations that have happened, all the blood that has been shed, the brutality continues. All we get is a glorification. Glorify the police. 'The police, are great. Put all the money in the police.'"
Bond, for his part, said he understand the anger on display in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in police custody--he understands it better than most, he said.
"I would like to say I, along with many officers not only on this police department, but across this country are shocked, saddened, and embarrassed by the events that took place in Minneapolis. As I told some of my staff then, I've never witnessed a public lynching in my life until the other day, a couple weeks ago, with Mr. Floyd. It is embarrassing. It is not representative of the hard-working men and women who go out every day to make a difference in the lives of others...To sit here and to listen to the hurt and pain from you all, I understand, because, if you didn't know. I'm also black. So I understand wholeheartedly where you're coming from as [a member of the] African American community."
But Bond said he's in the unique position of being a black man in law enforcement, with his finger on the pulse of his department, and he said he's tired of seeing his officers lumped in with the mistakes and potential crimes that have taken place outside his jurisdiction.
"To sit here and continuously to be painted with a broad brush, with everything that we've done as New Castle County Police--and as I've said to the men and women here in this agency: We can't control what goes on outside of 3601 North DuPont Highway. The only thing that we can control is what is what takes place within 3601 North DuPont Highway. We have done our damn best," he said. "Do we make mistakes? Are we perfect? No. By no stretch of the imagination will you ever hear us say that. But we put forth our best effort, day in and day out. We have been progressive in every aspect. I challenge you find another police department that does what New Castle County Police Department does."
Any impropriety or accusation of abuse is investigated thoroughly, Bond said, and the department has initiated several community policing programs which have increased effectiveness at outreach and assisting with calls regarding mental health. His officers are held accountable, he said.
"We hold our officers accountable, and sometimes simply because you think it should be one way, or someone else thinks it should be another way, the outcome isn't what you want or someone else wants, now all of a sudden we're doing things to cover up, we're doing things to hide," Bond said. "This agency doesn't have a history of that. Now, I will give you that there are some police departments across this country that operate in that manner. But New Castle County Police Department is not one. We are rooted in this community."
Street attempted to interject at one point during Bond's response, saying he'd "take the tongue-lashing," but Bond quickly shut him down.
"It's not a tongue-lashing, Jea, it's not a tongue-lashing. it's the truth. It's the truth," he said. "It's hurtful to men, it's hurtful to the member of this agency. I respect you, and I respect the work that you've done. I respect your support that you've given us over the years. If you choose to drop out your support, Jea, that's your business. That's your business, but we are not that agency that's out there in Minneapolis. We are better than that we set the standards. People come to us for the policies."
He touted the department's Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies accreditation--one of roughly 800, out of the estimated 18,000 police agencies in the county--as proof of the department's leading approach to policing.
One particular exchange pointed to the difference in approach to how change should come about. Street said Bond was hearing what he wanted to hear, claiming he made no inference the department "covered up" problems. He pointed to laws that protected potentially problematic officers, and pointed to specific instances where those laws lent to keeping an officer employed or out of trouble.
"We don't make the laws, Jea," Bond said.
"You're making my point for me," Street responded.
"I'm confused on what your point is," Bond fired back.
Later, Bond attempted to explain how he would always be the department's biggest critic.
"The public will never hold this department more accountable than I will. The incidents that you brought up briefly have been reviewed and you know that, we've had conversation about that," Bond said. "And you know what the status is on those."
"And nothing will be done about any of it," Street said. "And you know it, because you can't do it under the existing law."
Councilman Bill Bell tried bringing both sides together, saying everyone in the meeting had the same goal, a better Delaware for all its citizens.
"It's open dialogue. It's open, it's transparent. Folks voice their concerns and how they feel on what they see. But I can't help but sit here and recognize that every one of us on county council, we have supported, we have complimented, we have worked closely with our county police department, its leadership, and especially in this day and age, with Col. Bond," he said. "But we continue, in this nation--and on occasion, in this state--to have problems that are totally uncalled for and should not be happening in today's day and age. None of us accept that...there has to be change. We're the instrument that can help change that. And if it has to be on a state or national level, then it's up to all of us to join forces to support one another, and try to make those changes...I don't think the answer is not supporting, or defunding. I think the answer is to analyze and where we can do better, do better. Where we can improve, we improve. And there is no place in our society today, but it still exists, to have anyone in a law enforcement capacity that disrespects anyone that they serve, because of their race, color, creed. That's not American."