Dover Police Provide Updates on Reform Goals Announced in June 2020
For Immediate Release:
On June 18, 2020, the Dover Police Department announced plans to strengthen its already strong commitment to the best practices in law enforcement. At a press conference, Chief Thomas Johnson Jr. outlined some of the agency’s existing policy and training standards. He also announced plans to improve policy, increase citizen involvement, expand training, and restructure the command staff in order to achieve the larger goal of creating a model 21st Century public safety organization rooted in the principle of community policing. Since that time, much work has been accomplished and the Dover Police Department can report the following progress:
Standards that are either continuing or recently incorporated into policy:
- Chokeholds are forbidden unless used as a last resort to save a life.
- When time permits, De-Escalation is the primary strategy for intense or escalating situations.
- When time permits, warnings will be issued before shooting at a threat or a suspect.
- When time permits, all available “less lethal” options will be attempted prior to lethal force.
- Dover Police Officers are required to intervene in, and report, any law enforcement force violations.
- Shooting at moving vehicles is forbidden unless the following is true and no other option exists-
- The operator is directing the vehicle as a deadly weapon toward an individual.
- Any occupant of the suspect vehicle are shooting at other individuals.
- The Officer can discharge their duty weapon without substantial risk to innocent persons.
- Use of Force events are reviewed by every level of the command structure up to the Deputy Chief.
- Use of Force events will be completely documented (witness & digital) and investigated.
- The Office of Professional Standards will monitor force events through reports and technology.
- Identifiable information of Juveniles will not be published absent a significant public safety concern.
Dover Police Use of Force and Firearms Policy (PDF Download)
Dover Police Use of Force/Medical Aid Policy (PDF Download)
Dover Police Public Information Policy (PDF Download)
- The Police Chief’s Advisory Committee was established in September and has met regularly to support the development of Dover Community Policing programs and enhance stakeholder relationships. This diverse panel is currently examining the challenge of communicating to young people, through digital means, a message that rejects drugs, guns and violence.
- After examining the issue of “in-custody” deaths, it became clear that more training in anatomy and physiology was needed for law enforcement who routinely must use force to overcome resistance. The Dover Police Department has obtained a commitment from a nationally-known medical expert to train the entire agency on how a resistor can become rapidly medically compromised while being restrained or taken into custody. This training is tentatively scheduled for the last week in May, 2021 when it is hoped that COVID conditions will allow Dr. Gary M. Vilke to travel to Delaware.
- In addition to specialized Use of Force Training, the DPD Planning and Training Unit is adding a class on equity to our annual in-service training program. This is keeping with our commitment to give special attention to Justice, Equity, De-Escalation, and Use of Force in our recurring programs.
- The Office of Professional Standards has been completely established and now consolidates the Policy, Planning, Training, and Internal Affairs functions of the organization within one Division. This shift in structure allows for an immediate assessment of our service delivery and much faster corrective action when it is needed.
- To support the Internal Affairs function, the Dover Police has deployed new software to improve analysis of Officer behaviors. IA Pro will bring much improved capacity in the areas of monitoring performance metrics and early warning indicators. It is part of a larger effort to capture useful data that will inform decisions on training programs, ensure that discipline is fair and effective, identify potential liability challenges, and promote an equitable employee evaluation system.
- Body Worn Cameras remain a priority for the Dover Police Department. Select Officers are currently conducting a pilot study of an updated version of previously examined technology. Also, supervisors are meeting with all other major competitors in the marketplace to ensure we identify the most suitable product for Dover that has the best return on investment. Working in conjunction with elected officials, we continue to make strides toward full implementation of this technology to add strength to our case presentations and bring increased transparency to the organization.
- We continue to value the idea of having an agency that represents the community it serves. To that end, we have recruited and are currently training eight (8) new Police Officers. They are a diverse and talented group that make up the core enrollment of our new Dover Municipal Police Academy. Dover has not conducted a formal Academy in more than a quarter century. COVID conditions have added a new training challenge to Delaware Policing and the Office of Professional Standards responded in a strong fashion to bridge the “space gap” created by the need for social distancing. The Academy’s staff and certified instructors have also created a custom curriculum that combines the well-developed Delaware State Standards for basic training and the Dover values of Community Policing.
- With the support of Dover City Council, primary Community Policing staffing will be doubled in 2021 with the recent approval of a grant that will help deliver five (5) new Officers to the agency. The expanded authorized strength begins in April and will allow the Community Policing Unit (CPU) to deliver many more programs to support the prevention of crime and the relationships with our citizens. While our young people will be a priority, efforts will be aimed toward our seniors and “quality of life” challenges as well.
- Directly connected to the expansion of the Community Policing Unit is the effort to bring a social services component to our field operations. In collaboration with State and Regional partners, the Dover Police is working on a program model that will provide alternatives to prosecution of individuals experiencing challenges related to substance abuse, behavioral health, and/or homelessness. Several options have been identified and the deployment of a social services provider is anticipated in 2021. This credentialed professional will engage in prevention, response, and follow-up activities to support this “at-risk” community.
Chief Thomas Johnson Jr. added the following: “I’m very proud of the how the entire Dover Policing Team came together to deliver significant progress on all of our stated goals. In fact, despite a persistent national health emergency, we managed to stand up a community-policing-oriented basic training academy as well as thoroughly researching the implementation of a social services program to serve alongside our expanded community policing unit. It’s a distinct honor to lead such a talented group and I want to thank all of them for their tireless efforts. I’d also like to acknowledge the collaboration and support provided by our local elected and appointed officials. None of this happens in a vacuum and we could not be successful without their involvement and investment. This is an exciting time for us and we look forward to keeping the momentum going into the coming year and beyond.”