Al Sharpton speaks at Dover rally on changes to Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights
The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke at a rally in Dover on Monday afternoon, calling on lawmakers to open police up to public scrutiny via the controversial Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights and lambasting the state for its handling of officer-involved shootings.
"It seemed to me ironic, if not insulting, as I was coming in that you have the nerve to name a street after Martin Luther King while the people of Dr. King are being abused by police, and you will not hold them accountable," Sharpton said from a podium on the Green outside Legislative Hall.
"You should take the sign down if you're not going to live up to the principles of Martin Luther King."
Sharpton spoke alongside police reform activists Lakeisha Nix, sister of Lymond Moses, who was shot and killed by New Castle County police earlier this year; and Keandra McDole, sister of Jeremy McDole, a Black man in a wheelchair who was shot and killed by Wilmington police in 2015; and Blaine Hackett, a pastor at St. John African Methodist Church Inc.
"When the session comes back in January, we will bring people around the country to stand with these two families," Sharpton said about Nix's and McDole's families, alluding to the next legislative session that runs from January to June.
Why Sharpton came to Delaware
Sharpton and the local activists criticized the state for upholding the decades-old Bill of Rights law that lets police decide how to discipline bad-acting officers and limits how much the public can know about any punishment. Thanks to the law, internal investigations into complaints against police are kept secret.
"It's been 10 months and nine days, and we still don't have any clear answers as to what punishment, if any, these officers will face for their wrongdoing," Nix said, alluding to the shooting of her brother.
The rally, hosted by the quasi-grassroots advocacy company Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware, was specifically in favor of Senate Bill 149, which would amend the Officers' Bill of Rights by opening up internal affairs records to the public and striking out certain provisions about how officers are allowed to be investigated.
The bill by Sen. Tizzy Lockman, a Democrat from Wilmington, would also allow state and local governments to create civilian review boards, made up of non-officers, to hear and have a say in police discipline.
Lockman did not attend the event.
Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware, which is funded by employees of the global translation services company TransPerfect, once said its advocacy was on behalf of TransPerfect but has more recently called itself a defender of good governance among judiciaries.
Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware did not respond to an inquiry about whether Sharpton was paid for the event
The rally was originally scheduled one week ago but was postponed.
The American Civil Liberties Union was originally scheduled to co-host the rally but did not appear to be hosting the newly scheduled one on Monday. The ACLU did not respond to an inquiry about why it appeared to drop out of organizing the event.
Lawmakers introduced the bill in the spring but failed to pass it by their June deadline because of police disapproval of the measure.
Democrats say they plan instead to amend the bill to appease opponents. But it's unclear what those amendments will look like and how much they will water down the current bill, which supporters say is the only way to truly hold police accountable in the state.
Lawmakers are holding one more meeting with police and other stakeholders on Dec. 3 before presenting any amendments, according to Lockman. The last meeting was on Nov. 19.
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Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online/The News Journal. Reach her at (302) 324-2281 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.