"The stakes are really high," said Governor John Carney Wednesday. "And a bill like this is really important."
On July 21, 2021, Carney signed into law House Bill 195, which creates a fully funded statewide requirement that all law enforcement officers and a select handful of other Delaware state employees don body-worn cameras while operating in an official capacity.
"It's not new to our state. Agencies across our state have been using body cameras and vehicle cameras for some time, successfully," Carney said. "For me, it's more about the trust that something like this is creating between law enforcement and the communities in which they serve--particularly communities of color. That is so critically important for law enforcement to do their jobs and for our communities to be safe."
The bill's primary sponsor, Democratic Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, said the signing of the bill Wednesday represented an effort to hold the entirety of the state of Delaware accountable, and she thanked Carney for helping bring this important moment to fruition.
"I must say a special thank you to the governor, because he included the dollars that we needed in his budget, and then we, the legislators, passed the budget, so we shall be able to implement body worn cameras properly," the representative said. "Body-worn cameras create transparency and accountability, not just for the officers, but the community as well. I don't want officers having stories being told about them that aren't true."
While body-worn cameras in the state isn't a new concept, as Secretary for the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security Nathaniel McQueen pointed out, creating a statewide program shows Delawareans the state takes seriously its promise to hold itself to a higher standard.
"Approximately half of Delaware's 48 law enforcement agencies currently have body-worn camera programs," McQueen said. "While there's still work to be done, the signing of this legislation is the next step in our state's continuing efforts to promote accountability, transparency, and legitimacy. It will also enable Delaware law enforcement to continue to build trust and foster positive relationships within our communities. "
It also puts Delaware at the forefront of the nation's efforts to implement positive changes that aid both its officers and the people who live here, said Attorney General Kathy Jennings.
"A year ago, amidst unrest local and national, [the governor, General Assembly, and law enforcement and community leaders] identified an answer--not the answer, but an answer. You worked tirelessly with all stakeholders to design a unique system that will make Delaware truly a national leader," Jennings said. "Today, that vision becomes a reality. We are not done, as many have said. We need to equip our police with both the technology and an updated policy--I think by January 2022--and so, let's get to work and keep doing the hard things, because the hard things make a difference for all of us."
At the end of the day, Carney said legislation like HB195 is about treating each other with humanity.
"I love it, because neighbors look after one another. Neighbors take care of one another. Neighbors care about the broader community," he said. "And really, that's what this piece of legislation is all about."