A pair of resolutions that will be voted on by Wilmington City Council at their next meeting, seeks to make public Wilmington Police's rules and regulations as well as declare racism a public health epidemic.
Both resolutions introduced in the public safety committee meeting Tuesday, June 8, 2020, and sponsored by Councilman Chris Johnson will go forward.
Like gun violence was declared a public health epidemic in Wilmington and studied by the Centers for Disease Control, the first measure would also declare racism a public health threat.
"We've been seeing more and more reports on how racism has always affected the country similar to other diseases that we face," he said. "To make sure that, as a city, we are not just not racist, but we are anti-racist."
He called for changes to city policies in dealing with minority-owned small businesses as well as examining vendor selections and grant management processes.
Debated in the past, Johnson is renewing efforts for Wilmington Police's policies and procedures, known as the "white book" to be published online for public review in a manner that's not substantially redacted.
"Unfortunately, this legislation has been long overdue in the city of Wilmington, there are many jurisdictions...35, specifically, that we even know of around the country that have already published these policies and procedures online. This includes, Seattle, Washington, Fair Lawn, New Jersey, Newark, New Jersey, Brunswick, Georgia, and even Lower Merion Township, [Pennsylvania], right up the road," said Johnson.
Johnson said he knows there are concerns about what can publicly shown.
"From my sense of knowledge...the only exception to publishing would be anything that puts WPD or city personnel under personal risk, or risk of safety, or a terrorist attack," he said. "So it's a very, very narrow set of regulations that can't be published. Otherwise, things like use of force regulations dealing with choke holds, regulations dealing with tactics, that all should be publicly available."
Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy said he's working with the law department to begin the process of reviewing the manuals and performing the necessary redactions.
"We're almost half-way through, but we're giving everything over to law, and more specifically, with the use of force policies, we want to make sure that in this current environment, that's one of the things that everybody wants to take a look at probably predominantly first before anything else, we should have all the redactions, minimal redactions, ready for law to look at and hopefully for everyone to review shortly," said the chief.
His resolution comes amid vocal calls for police reforms across the country.
"The problem is the community doesn't even know exactly what needs to be reformed because unless you're an attorney or someone working for the city, you don't even know what policies are on the books. The public doesn't know what tactics are already banned by Wilmington Police," he said. "As I understand Chief Tracy has made considerable effort to revise use of force, but we still have a long way to go."
Councilwoman Linda Gray pointed to the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights as an impediment to some reforms being sought.
"One of the things that prevents officers from being investigated and prosecuted in this state...I'm just suggesting to the public to look at that. I also want us to look at the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights and change some of those things," she said.
Johnson agreed changes to the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights need to happen on the state level.
"There needs to be a tweak of it; I don't know if it's a wholesale repeal or just tweaking certain parts," he said. "Ninety-five percent of officers are doing what they're supposed to, and the bad officers make it worse fro everyone else."