The Wilmington Police Department (WPD) Chief Robert J. Tracy has demonstrated resistance and a pattern of failure to provide information when requested, including any ideas to increase communication, transparency, diversity and police reform. Wilmington City Council President Congo is requesting transparency practices that support public engagement with our city’s policing in the following ways:
Establish accountability and transparency measures
Improve WPD’s community response practices
Reexamine use of force practices
Increase police and community partnerships with an emphasis on the future of policing
Support officers who respond to traumatic incidents and provide them with psychological support
Full implementation of the Citizen Complaint Review Board which council funded during last years budget appropriations
Council members have heard numerous sworn officers talking about the morale being extremely low among minority officers within the WPD, with higher ranking officers not being held accountable for their actions.
“Access to information should be an important priority for Police Chief Tracy. I believe that public trust is vital to good community policing and maintaining accountability,” said President Congo. “By making information public, residents become better informed about Police Department operations and practices. I’ll continue to push for a more transparent process.”
In 2019, an incident occurred within the WPD where a black male detective in the WPD Criminal Investigation Division was given a trophy during roll call as a Christmas present by his white male supervisor. The engraved message on the trophy reads “Whitest Black Guy in the Office Award.” It has been displayed on the detective’s desk for everyone to see since it was presented to him. While President Congo understands that the recipient might be ok with receiving this trophy, it has offended several black detectives as well as other black officers, both of rank and non-rank. They are fearful to speak on it because of fear of getting transferred and/or retaliation. There are no minority supervisors in the Criminal Investigation Division for these officers to confide in and to feel comfortable expressing their thoughts. This is an example of the culture being displayed in the WPD, and it is unacceptable.
President Congo has spoken about the numerous complaints he and other council members have received from sworn officers and non-uniformed personnel about WPD leadership, but no solutions have been discussed.
“I just want Chief Tracy to do the right thing. I’m not trying to fire him. I’m not trying to defund the police, although some people may, I just want to give him an opportunity to do the right thing,” said President Congo. “While there is an attempt to make the vote about one area, the growing violence in Wilmington, that is nothing more than a distraction from the very real issues permeating throughout WPD with regards to staff and community communication.”
During City Council’s regular meeting on Thursday, January 20, 2022, council members presented their opinions on various matters connected to a vote of ‘No Confidence’ in the City of Wilmington’s Police Chief, Robert J. Tracy, and the WPD practices. Council voted 6 -yes and 4 -no to pass the resolution. Many council members agreed that the intent of the resolution was to address leadership and the longstanding complaints about WPD internal operations, which in return impact external relationships.
“This year we are presented with an opportunity, especially considering the upcoming city budget, to reexamine how we allocate funding to WPD,” said President Congo. “Our City budget must contain funds for a thorough audit of WPD and money to enhance and create a true community response team, because policing as usual is not working.”
During last week’s vote, President Congo expressed his support for WPD and stated they alone cannot reverse the growing violence in Wilmington and that we should not continue to put additional burdens on our officers to solve the issues other policy areas have created, such as the education system.
Transparency and accountability are still of top concern to President Congo and the majority of Council Members.