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Crime Featured Public affairs Scene About Town

Wilmington moves 2 steps closer on police body cameras

Axon body camel

Wilmington has made two major advances on equipping all of its uniformed police officers with body cameras.

City Council on Thursday unanimously approved a contract for equipment and installation, WDEL reported. The vote was on the same day the city announced a $630,000 federal grant for body cameras.

The issue goes back a while. Police officials had tested several camera models in recent years, Delaware Public Media reported in June 2019.

Councilman Trippi Congo in September 2019 introduced measure calling for a five-year, $1,954,836 with Axon Enterprise, an Arizona company.

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By June of this year, with protests escalating over the death of George Floyd and others at the hands of police officers nationwide, city leaders were pledging to “to support police and racial justice reforms.” Those reforms include police body cameras, review of use of force policies, establishing a police review board and release of additional police procedures

With the grant coming from the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, Police Chief Robert J. Tracy said the next steps include discussions on policies with the FOP Lodge No. 1, the police union.

The department’s authorized staffing will increase to 319 officers from 315 to supervise the program. Tracy said the policies have been developed on program operations, storage and sharing of video and other administrative requirements. These policies are being reviewed by the city’s law and human resources departments and will be made public later. 

The news generated praise by all three of Delaware’s Congressional delegation and by state Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “The next step is clear: funding and deploying body-worn cameras on every officer across our state,” she said.

Axon’s home page says its cameras “capture truth. Connected cameras that tell the full story.”

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Featured Politics Public affairs

Live-streamed governor, House debates Tuesday, Wednesday

Delaware's Democrat and Republic candidates square off against each other Tuesday.

 

Debates among candidates for Delaware’s governor and the U.S. House of Representatives are planned for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and will be live-streamed on Delaware Live, Town Square Delaware and Milford Live. Voters can submit questions in advance by completing this form.

The first debate features John Carney, the incumbent Democrat, and Republican challenger Julianne E. Murray.

The second debate features Lisa Blunt Rochester, the incumbent Democrat, and Republican Lee Murphy.

No debate in the U.S. Senate race is planned, because incumbent Democrat Christopher A. Coons has said he is unable to participate in a debate at the University of Delaware with his Republican challenger, Lauren Witzke.

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The debates are a decade-long tradition of UD’s Center for Political Communication and Delaware Public Media.

Ralph Begleiter, the retired founding director of the CPC and a former CNN journalist, will moderate.

Coronavirus guidelines prevent having a studio audience, and other precautions include a screening questionnaire and temperature check. Masks will be required, but once the debate begins, the moderator and candidates will remove their masks. The candidates will stand at podiums 10 feet apart and more than 12 feet from the moderator.

“We’re following all these precautions very carefully to ensure everyone’s safety but still allow the public to see the candidates in a true debate,” said Nancy Karibjanian, director of the CPC.

“It’s not really a debate unless the candidates are face to face, and we feel a responsibility to offer this kind of public forum in Delaware each election year.”

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Featured Public affairs Scene About Town

Influence & Integrity in American Politics

The Founder’s Folio is an editorial series for Delaware Live by Founder and DE Entrepreneur and Family Businessman Chris L. Kenny. You can visit his website and blog at chrislkenny.com

Our political season is in full swing. We are bombarded daily with political ads, breaking news and trending topics. Our national media platforms court sponsors to fill their 30-second commercial slots, selling them on their massive audiences who are tuned in eating the popcorn. In turn, candidates spend exorbitant amounts of money to communicate their side of the story and to compete for the control of the narrative. To fund these complex campaigns requires significant resources, and to have any shot at any level of office—whether it be local, state or federal—you have two choices: compete for what you feel is right in the competition of ideas that is our Democracy or step aside.

“How did we get to this point in American Politics?” Many ask. When did money equate to influence in politics? How did money become so intricately involved in politics? Has it always been this way?

The answer that may be surprising to some is quite actually yes. Since the beginning of our nation, money and its influence have consistently played a role in the workings and foundational building blocks of American Government.

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The merits of money in politics have so too been debated from the very beginning. As the details of our Constitution were deliberated in 1787 Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin questioned money’s influence in politics. He was concerned about Greed and how greediness could steer decision-making. His concern was one of ethics and morality and is a question we should all ask ourselves anytime money is involved in a situation. Benjamin Franklin was a thoughtful, musing philosopher who could see both sides of the coin. When he started the Leather Apron Club in Philadelphia, a business and networking club that met regularly to discuss how to work together for mutual benefit, he saw how money and influence could be essential tools for the positive advancement of local city and community.

The correlation between having strong resources and success in politics goes back to our first President. George Washington’s Presidential campaign was funded in large part by getting voters liquored up on rum punch with a healthy side of his famous ginger cakes. Then while in office, the focus on productive industry and a strong economy became a key component of his administration. Backing his Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton’s strategy to provide capital and financial stability to promising businesses, merchants and manufacturers, President George Washington realized from the beginning how to best use money and influence in politics to ensure the success and long-term stability of the country.

Then Andrew Jackson fought with the banks and their elite backers who spent thousands pushing the President as a dictator before the next election. He fought fire with fire on a campaign that remarked it takes money to fight the rich. To fight for what you believe in, you’ve got to find the means.

Perhaps our great President Abraham Lincoln would not have won the uphill 1864 election were it not for contributions from thousands of businesses who supported and worked with the government. Later even the great President Theodore Roosevelt, a champion of the common man much like Franklin, realized the need for campaign funding from wealthy donors to win the presidency.

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The second half of the twentieth century saw the explosion of radio and tv media, and the playing field where influence is an important key to political success remained the same but on a larger scale with greater reach. Now as we make our way through the new digital age of social media, we must continue to discuss how to best use our influence in advocating for policies and leaders we feel are truly the right choice.

We should keep these questions on our minds as we try to make our community as best as it can be. Are we keeping integrity in the process? Is there transparency in the chain of influence? When capital is pushing disingenuous, false claims is when we should be concerned. But when truth and facts are promoted however, that’s our democracy at its healthiest. An informed republic is one that makes the best collective decisions. When leaders and influencers practice transparency in their actions, they keep the public in the know, so that they can exercise their rights, too.

So as we turn on our TVs and scroll our feeds, let’s continue to push the conversation of influence and capital in politics. Keeping an honest conversation going will keep our leaders on their toes and ensure that they are listening to us. These discussions help hold our leaders accountable. It forces them to keep the common people in mind as the political fabric of our Democracy is shaped.

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Featured History Public affairs Scene About Town

A Columbus Day question: Where’s his statue?

Christopher Columbus statue
Wilmington removed this statue of Christopher Columbus and placed it in storage. City of Wilmington photo

In June, in response to protests that started after the death George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, Wilmington removed statues of Christopher Columbus and Caesar Rodney and placed them in storage. Here’s what has happened since.

Nothing.

No evaluation of their future, according to John Rago, deputy chief of staff for policy and communications for Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki.

No public hearings.

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The public has offered unsolicited input. “A variety, as you can imagine,” he said. “Keep them down, put them back up and everything in between.”

“The mayor said at some point the climate will be right to publicly discuss statues, public commemorations, etc.,” he added.

The Columbus statue was on Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Rodney statue in Rodney Square.

Purzycki said in June the statues were being removed and stored “so there can be an overdue discussion about the public display of historical figures and events.”

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Joe Sielski founded a Facebook group calling for the Columbus statue to be removed. “People who truly understood his history saw his presence as a threat,” he said in June.

Since then, the group has acquired 480 members. Postings lately have been more about indigenous peoples and progressive causes rather than the statue.

A celebration of “the rich culture of indigenous people in the Americas” is planned at noon Sunday at Peter Spencer Plaza, according to a posting from Jea Porter Street II to that group. It says the plaza is in Garvey City, with a ZIP code that matches downtown Wilmington. Garvey City has its own Facebook page, indicating it was named for Jamaican Marcus Garvey.

Oct. 12 is governmentally recognized as Columbus Day. It is also Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

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Education Featured Government Public affairs

DSU tackles Black Lives Matter with a new boulevard, institute — and cookouts

 
Delaware State University tackles Black Lives Matter
Delaware State University students helped plan new Black Lives Matter programming that includes cookouts with campus police, so they can all get to know each other better.

As Jacob Blake’s name is added to the lengthening list of black Americans shot down in encounters with law enforcement, and the resultant protests generate their own casualties that seem to deepen existing divisions in our nation, I am reminded of the staunch insistence of a great American, Frederick Douglass:

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”

Today, in this moment — and because of our values — we continue to plow. 

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Those who saw the first-mover actions of NBA and WNBA players this week — followed by players from Major League Baseball, Tennis, Major League Soccer and others — should place it in historical perspective.  American athletes have consistently risen to the moment throughout our history.

Dr. Tony Allen

When you watch the forthright anger of Lebron James, hear the anguish in the voice of “Doc” Rivers, respect the continuing activism of Smyrna High School alum and emerging WNBA superstar Betnijah Laney, or witness the quiet dignity of Kenny Smith as he left the set of “Inside the NBA” in solidarity, understand that this is not new. 

These are the latest leaders in a proud tradition that includes Jesse Owens, Louise Stokes, and Tidye Pickett in the 1936 Olympics; Jackie Robinson breaking professional baseball’s color line in 1947; and the iconic Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics by Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Individuals whose talents could allow them to a life of sheltered privilege have repeatedly chosen to be examples of true leadership in the cause of social justice, even at the cost of their own careers.

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We cannot do less.

Today I am announcing three immediate steps that Delaware State University will be taking to help move forward in the struggle for a more equitable America for ALL.

It is important to understand that these actions come from our entire community: some have been driven by faculty and staff, others by our students.

That is the power of “we.”

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Building bridges

At the suggestion of our Student Government Association, over the next few weeks there will be a series of small, socially distanced cookouts jointly attended by students and members of the University Police.

We must build more bridges between the students who call this campus “home” and the professionals responsible for keeping it safe. The time to talk is before incidents occur, and we view this as the critical beginning of a long-term, ongoing conversation. 

For some of our students – particularly those from marginalized communities — this will be the first time they have had a positive interaction with a Law Enforcement official.   We hope to ensure that it will not be the last. 

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A new boulevard

The University will partner with the SGA on a second major project: creating a Black Lives Matter Boulevard at a prominent location on campus, completed funded by private donations.

Symbolic actions help define us, and as the nation’s most diverse, contemporary and unapologetic HBCU, we need to be both clear and vocal about who we are and the causes we champion.

I have asked SGA Integrity Administration President Tess Aguiar and her leadership team to spearhead this effort, working in conjunction with Student Affairs. We expect to be admiring the results before cooler weather kicks in.

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A new institute

Finally, I am announcing a major University initiative that we have been pursuing for over a year: the creation of The Global Institute for Equity, Inclusion, and Civil Rights.

It will provide Delaware State University not just a prominent voice in the issues of the day, but the organizational structure that permits us to have a positive impact in Delaware and across our nation.

The institute will be an associated organization in our foundation capable of serving many roles, from garnering resources, developing partnerships, engaging in research, and stimulating activism.

It is a platform that allows us to lead.

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These are foundational steps, but they are not new. 

Symbolic of a great nation is a people committed to its most important Declaration, that we all are created equal and “endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

In this moment, not only do each of these rights matter, nothing could be more important.  

Tony Allen is president of Delaware State University, a historically black college and university.