Delaware Black Legislative Caucus presser 061020

Improved police training and education come out as a key focus for the Workforce Development Subcommittee of the Law Enforcement Officers Accountability Task Force, which had its first meeting this week.

Vice Chair of the subcommittee Frank Burton Jr., who is a retired special agent with the FBI, said he expects to see the conversation venture into some "hard places" in order to promote positive change.

"If we're going to strengthen our police departments and our community relationships, we have to challenge ourselves and question our biases and preconceived notions," said Burton. "Most of all, we have to listen."

Burton pointed to the "elephant in the room."

"Why people in the communities that we serve--whether they be cities or whatever have the perceptions of police officers that they have," he said. "when we talk about the bad apples are out there. Well, guess what? I've been in law enforcement for 30 years, the officers know who the bad apples are, but who's saying anything, are you reporting it? Are you saying anything to your commander or your chief, or are you just going along with the process?"

He also stressed a need for ongoing mental health treatment for officers -- similar to the random drug and polygraph testing officers routinely encounter on the job. 

"What happens if you report to a 9/11...which I was, and you see those people jumping out of the building? It affects you. What happens if you're in an officer-involved shooting? We have to have ongoing mental health support," said Burton.

Georgetown Police Chief R.L. Hughes called this group an opportunity to do impactful work that will aid the next-generation of police officers.

"Let's get the next set of folks that are going to be doing this the right tools, and the right tools come from the right training and education," he said. "I think this will be much better for the law enforcement profession as an outcome."

Chair of the subcommittee Sherese Brewington-Carr said their work needs to result in a paradigm shift in the relationship between communities and law enforcement.

Brian Moore, a Delaware Department of Education staffer and retired law enforcement officer, echoed that sentiment.

"The way our kids view the officers that they deal with in schools versus the education, the training that we see in the officers out in the community, out in the field, and that gap continues to widen--that's an area of huge concern," he said. 

Moore pointed to the Cops Helping Kids program in Philadelphia that works to address that gap.

"Just incredibly impressed...a patrol officer with some guidance, with some direction, and put them in the same room with kids who were considered at-risk youth, who had a negative perception of law enforcement, and kind of get them to see both sides of what they were experiencing, and really we'd love to bring that kind of information to Delaware, and certainly, some trauma-informed practices around what the kids are going through and how we can stop that cycle," he said.

Brewington-Carr broke down the group into further subcommittees including one working on training and curriculum, recruitment and retention; another focusing on incidents of engagement and violence; a third subgroup will report on funding and policies and procedures while a fourth will delve deeper into laws and union agreements.