Senate Bill 149
151st General Assembly (Present)
Out of Committee 6/16/21
Reported from Committee; to list ready for consideration (Ready List)
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 11 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE LAW-ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS’ BILL OF RIGHTS.
Currently, Delaware is in the minority of states that bar public access to police misconduct records, and is the only state in the country with a specific confidentiality clause in its Law-Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (“LEOBOR”). Under Delaware's LEOBOR (Chapter 92 of Title 11 of the Delaware Code) police misconduct records are secret and not accessible to criminal defense counsel, the media, or the public. The only non-law enforcement entities that have access to police misconduct records are civil plaintiff attorneys who are suing the police for causing physical injury or damages. This means that other than the police department where the officer works, and plaintiff lawyers in some types of cases, no one knows if an active member of a police force has lied, used excessive force in the past, abused their authority, tampered with evidence, or engaged in sexual misconduct. This information is tremendously important. Law-enforcement officers are pillars of their community and often the sole or most significant witnesses in criminal trials, where defendants are sometimes facing the rest of their lives in prison. This Act would ensure that prosecutors and criminal defense counsel will have access to all law-enforcement misconduct records, created before, on, or after the effective date of this Act, making our criminal justice system fairer and improving trust within our community. And, public access, through Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act (Chapter 100 of Title 29 of the Delaware Code) will increase transparency and allow for more meaningful oversight. This Act removes LEOBOR’s confidentiality clause and adds affirmative language to LEOBOR that law-enforcement disciplinary records are public records. And, this Act makes clear that the only materials that are released relate to disciplinary issues, and do not include personal information. Additionally, this Act makes changes to LEOBOR to increase transparency and enable the creation and operation of effective community review boards at the state, county, and municipal level. Finally, this Act makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.
Takes effect upon being signed into law