Wilmington Police generic

A citizens police review board was approved to be formed by Wilmington City Council on Thursday night.

After a 10-1 vote, with Ciro Adams -- the board's only Republican -- dissenting, sponsor Christofer Johnson said the citizen review board will be something unique to Delaware.

"This is a board to hold the police accountable. This is has never existed in Delaware's history, and will be the first of its type. This board will also be charged with looking at policies and practices."

Johnson's comments about the discussion on the composition of the board seemed to counter the legislation. 

"All members who are expected to be on the board are not to be public officials, they are to be citizens who have a training in law enforcement."

However, the passed ordinance specifically says "the majority of the composition of the CCRB shall not have a law enforcement background."

The prescribed population of the CCRB will include one member of the Mayor's Office, potentially three City Council members, with the rest of the 9-person board being nominated by the Mayor with Council's consent, with members recommended from the ACLU, NAACP, Wilmington HOPE Commission, the Latin American Community Center, and the Clergy of the City of Wilmington.

Each member shall serve three-year term, although there may be some one-year terms to start to stagger the start and end dates going forward.

The board will be charged with receiving complaints, have the power to investigate and report to the mayor, police chief, and city council, establish a mediation program, and also hold public information sessions.

The board would hold at least nine public meetings a year and publish on a website the number of complaints it receives each quarter to the extent permitted by law, and amount of use of force incidents, money spent by the city in complaints against the WPD, and any statistical information on trends or patterns within the WPD's activities.

Johnson said the CCRB's mission is to just become another check to police activities.

"Internal affairs will still do what they do, the AG's office will still do what they do. This is part of the process, but the citizen oversight board finally gets citizens into the mix."

Councilwoman Loretta Walsh, who voted for the board, said that it will be mostly toothless without other changes.

"We are giving false hope to citizens and the entire community. We can put whatever committees we want together and whoever we want on those communities, but as long as the Police Bill of Rights stands where it does right now, there's nothing we can do about it."

Adams, the sole member who voted against creating the board, said it is an overreaction.

"There is no pandemic of police misconduct. This civic review board is far outside our domain. To say we are going to have a board issue subpoenas and discipline officers is far, far overreaching and not appropriate or needed."

Johnson said for the CCRB to properly work, Wilmington will need to produce funding, and that similar boards in bigger cities have failed when they haven't gotten the needed support.

"This organization will need to be staffed with at least some part-time staff or administration staff. There will be some need to have a well-funded group. There will be some investigation costs and overhead."

Johnson's goal is to get the CCRB up and running by next November.