The Rev. Al Sharpton, religious leaders and relatives of two men shot and killed by police gathered in front of Legislative Hall Nov. 22 in support of a Senate bill that would open up police misconduct records.
Senate Bill 149 was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in June and awaits action when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.
“When you do not have oversight of the police by the community, you have the overlooking of justice by law enforcement that breaks the law,” Sharpton said to a crowd of about 30. “If you have nothing to hide, then open up the files.”
Standing behind Sharpton with signs in support of the bill were relatives of a Wilmington man in a wheelchair who was shot by police, and those of a man shot in New Castle. In 2015, the Attorney General’s Office issued a police use-of-force report relating to the shooting of Jeremy McDole and determined the man had shot a handgun several times before police shot him in his wheelchair. Gun residue was found on his hand and his DNA was found on the gun, the report states. An autopsy report noted a heavy presence of PCP in his bloodstream.
A report has not yet been released on the Jan. 13 police shooting of Lymond Moses in New Castle.
Sharpton called on Delaware as the First State to set a national example. He also criticized the community for naming a street Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard when there are injustices done to black residents in the state.
“[You] should take the sign down if you’re not going to live up to the principles of Martin Luther King,” he said.
The Dover rally was hosted by Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware, an organization that was created in opposition to a Delaware Chancery Court order to break up a successful company because of an ownership fight. TransPerfect, a company specializing in translating documents, has offices in New York City and is now close to a billion dollars in revenue, said Matthew Munsil of Tusk Strategies, a public relations firm that represents the citizens group.
The 5,000 members of Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware include TransPerfect employees, but also Delaware residents and business executives, he said.
Now that the TransPerfect court fight is over, the citizens group has transformed into an advocacy group for transparency, accountability, and diversity in Delaware’s courts, government and criminal justice system, Munsil said.
“We support a number of reforms to make Delaware more equitable, including [Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights] reform and the passage of SB 149, along with anti-corruption measures in the courts and the appointment of diverse judges,” Munsil said.
In August, the group announced its intention to spend $550,000 in advertising to promote diversity in Delaware’s courts. Munsil said the group did not pay Sharpton for his Nov. 22 appearance.
Sharpton pledged that he will come back with more people from out of state if need be.
“I didn’t want to send a statement; I brought a statement ... and we will come back with numbers if it is necessary when the session opens in January,” he said.