An open letter to the citizens of New Castle County,
Over the past year, citizens across the United States, have taken to protest to express their anger, frustration, and lack of trust in the law enforcement profession after the tragic murder of Mr. George Floyd. As I find myself reflecting on this significant time I am filled with many emotions. First and foremost, a profound sadness and disbelief that members of my profession could act in such an in-humane manner, an understanding and acceptance of the need for our profession to continue to improve upon how we police, and at the same time a sense of great pride and optimism in knowing that the men and women who serve New Castle County will continue to do so while building upon the trust and understanding we have spent decades fostering with our communities.
Recently, there have been many calls for more community-based policing programs including mental health training for officers. I agree that community policing programs are a valuable tool and that is why the New Castle County Division of Police has continuously sought out and implemented programs that will enable us to better serve our communities. Our commitment to those we serve propelled us from a traditional policing model to a progressive policing model. Allow me to explain the difference, a traditional model is a belief that one can arrest their way out of a problem, this is a short-term fix and not a solution. A progressive model examines the root cause and utilizes internal and external resources to identify solutions. This model emphasizes the need for continual education and training on a multitude of topics such as de-escalation, implicit bias, cultural diversity, and advanced mental health training to name a few. We value this training for our officers, but we are also very proud of the many programs we offer to our community members.
I will provide a brief synopsis of some programs and positions we have implemented over the years to better assist us in providing police services.
- We established a Domestic Violence Unit to deal with the victims of domestic abuse. This unit has been instrumental in working with the Attorney General’s Office to protect our victims. We added civilian Victim’s Advocates to the unit to communicate and walk victims of domestic and all violent crimes through the investigative and court processes. This unit and its staff provide our victims with a sense of control something that is often taken from them due to their circumstances.
- One of our latest initiatives that has already changed the lives of many in our community is our Hero Help Program. Like many areas across the nation, for the past several years New Castle County has seen an increase in the number of opioid-related deaths and this program assists those who are suffering from substance abuse disorder. Initially, a program to enter treatment in lieu of arrest, the program achieved rapid success and we expanded the program with civilian staff.
- We were the first police department in the State of Delaware to carry the life-saving drug Naloxone also known as Narcan. We are the first police department in the State designated as a Community Based Naloxone Access program by the Delaware Health and Social Services Division of Public Health which means that we train certain officers to train others, including family members of those addicted, in the administration of Narcan.
- In 2017, we took on the issue of mental illness and decided that we would do more to assist those suffering and teamed a mental health professional with an officer that had experience and training in mental illness. We were the first police department in the State of Delaware to form this type of partnership and it saw immediate and overwhelming success. Drawing on the realization that we were providing services that dealt with both substance abuse and mental illness, we created the award-winning Behavioral Health Unit. Our efforts have led to partnerships with over 80 resource providers. Partnering with Christiana Care we have expanded our unit by adding a nurse, child victim advocate, two additional mental health professionals, and two case managers.
- The Division continues to work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to provide officers with Crisis Intervention Training which better equips them to find peaceful resolutions when dealing with individuals in crisis. In addition, many officers have received NAMI’s Veterans Response Team (VRT) training to assist veterans in crisis.
- Being rooted in community policing, our Community Services Unit is extremely active and engaged in our communities. Recognizing the need to maintain consistent involvement with the children in our communities, many of whom are lacking positive role models at their homes, makes it all the more important that we continue to staff officers at the Hockessin and Garfield Park PALS. The role they play is vital in building meaningful relationships between the children and the police. The sad reality is that many children are unable to visit a PAL center, so the unit acquired grant funding to purchase many items you would find in the PAL to include everything from basketball courts to arts and crafts and created Mobile Play Zones. Members from the Community Services Unit, Mounted Patrol Unit, and Patrol Division visit various communities throughout the county, shut down a street, and invite neighborhood children to come out and have fun with the officers.
- Interacting with the community in a positive light goes beyond one unit. For example, the Police and Princess Ball was initiated by one of our patrol officers and brings young girls, ages 7-12, and law enforcement officers together at The Waterfall for a magical night, treating them like the princesses they are. The girls selected gowns and transportation to the event is provided by limousine buses at no cost to the princesses.
- We welcome citizens to come learn more about us by participating in our Citizen’s Police Academy. Participants receive three hours of training one night a week for 9 weeks and provides them with insights on the training our officers receive and the rationale behind it. This has been an invaluable opportunity to form long lasting partnerships based on mutual respect and understanding with those who participate.
As a police department, we have a unique platform and the resources and dedicated staff to champion causes that affect our community members. For example, we have worked tirelessly to raise funds for organizations that are helping others who may be suffering from cancer, autism, PTSD, and supporting agencies such as the Special Olympics, and many more. In many cases, we have designed New Castle County Division of Police patches that are specific to the cause and sold them. The proceeds were donated to those organizations to help our community members.
I along with the men and women of the New Castle County Division of Police have been very receptive to the calls for more transparency from law enforcement before this unprecedented movement. We have taken several steps over the years to improve our relationship with those we serve. Last year, after a meeting with a group of young people we posted many of our Departmental policies on our website. We recently added additional policies to include our Use of Force policy. We have shared with our communities the emphasis we have placed on training to include implicit bias, cultural awareness, de-escalation, verbal judo, and diversity training. We also are very proud that only 800 police agencies out of 18,000 in the United States of America are Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) are accredited and we are one of those 800. We also opened our use of force training to the Attorney General’s office to gain feedback on our training.
We continue to seek out the best training and equipment to ensure our officers are equipped to handle any crisis or incident we encounter. The Division was one of the first in the State to equip our officers with body worn cameras. We continue to grow and develop the program to better protect our citizens and officers alike. Recently, we became a launch partner with Axon in utilizing Virtual Reality Training. This allows our officers to encounter real-life scenarios and improve their understanding and ability to assist those with Autism, Alzheimer’s, Schizophrenia, hard of hearing, PTSD, and many other situations.
I want to sincerely thank the members of the New Castle County Division of Police to include our dedicated and committed civilian staff for the daily efforts you make to assist those in need.
To learn more about the various programs we offer to our community members please contact the New Castle County Division of Police in person, via phone, or our website.
Col. Vaughn M. Bond, Jr.