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Officials, law enforcement decry use of racial slur during police transparency meeting


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A Zoom meeting about police transparency on Friday afternoon was disrupted by an attendee who used a racial slur, prompting officials to publicly condemn him.

Around 4 p.m. during the meeting, someone twice messaged panelists with racist slurs, and was immediately ejected from the meeting, according to a press release about the disruption.

Minutes later, a man was given the chance to provide public comment and used it to say a racial slur. After about 15 seconds of silence, a moderator announced he had been removed from the webinar. After several others spoke, another man during public comment used the same slur and was also removed.

It's unclear if the same person was responsible for the three instances. The person or people were not immediately identified.

Friday's meeting was the last of a series of stakeholder meetings on 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 measure has been contentious, and it's not the first time that Delaware politicians have watched their racial justice efforts take a momentarily negative turn.

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.

"I am deeply dismayed, but not at all surprised, by this latest reminder that we live in a state and a nation where racist agitators will attack people of color working to make a change in their communities," Lockman said in a statement.

Lawmakers introduced the bill in the spring but failed to pass it by their June deadline because police disapproved of it.

Democrats now plan to amend the bill to appease opponents, hence the intent of Friday's meeting. 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.

The legislative session will resume in early 2022.

"These types of disgusting, bigoted words are callous, mean-spirited and offensive," said Delaware Fraternal Order of Police President Jamie Leonard and Chief Patrick Ogden, chairman of the Delaware Police Chiefs Council, in a joint statement.

"We can assure you that the words spoken today do not reflect the beliefs or ideals of the Delaware law enforcement community."

In the summer of 2019, a state-installed historical marker memorializing the 1903 lynching of laborer George White at the hands of a white mob was stolen shortly after being erected in New Castle County’s Greenbank Park in Prices Corner. That marker was replaced a few months later.

In April 2020, a Zoom meeting to help Black business owners in Delaware was hijacked by an anonymous hacker who took over the screen to scribble a racial slur and a swastika, then displayed graphic pornography.

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Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online/The News Journal. Reach her at (302) 324-2281 or sgamard@delawareonline.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.