Coby Owens

Candidate for District 1

Responses to Wilmington Police Reform Survey

Will you vote to make all police disciplinary records public, and push for changes in state law necessary to make that possible?

Yes. In order to further police reform, it is essential to begin addressing root causes of issues within policing — one of the most consistent being abuse of power and access to disciplinary records. I would push for this and advocate for the creation of a database that includes an extensive record of those with disciplinary records from obtaining law enforcement jobs. We have seen officers with disciplinary records of concern be transferred to other departments and acquire jobs as officers, including those who’ve murdered civilians and others in extrajudicial actions. I have worked with our state’s Attorneys General on reforms in June 2020, and if elected, I will continue to work with her and her office to push for state level reforms and changes as well, including this. 

Will you vote for an ordinance prohibiting Wilmington police from engaging in civil asset forfeiture?

Yes. Cities like Wilmington, who have an overwhelming Black population, are often subjected to asset forfeiture abuse. The initial use of this practice has been manipulated to impact individuals who often commit no wrongdoing, an alienation of a person’s presumption of innocence until proven guilty. I will write and champion the ordinance that prohibits Wilmington police from engaging in civil asset forfeiture. 

Will you vote for Wilmington police to collect and publish data, including by race, on all pedestrian and traffic stops they conduct, including the reason for the stop?

Yes. While some believe the issue of police collecting and publishing data may be problematic, it is essential to understanding the level of racial profiling and where we need to change laws and practices that are subjected to abuse of power. In order to have police accountability and reform, we must understand and access this data. 

Will you vote in favor of periodic psychological evaluations of Wilmington police officers? Will you vote for funds to mental health support for officers?

Yes. Law enforcement is a complex issue. There are traumatic experiences that officers experience, and left untreated has shown what could happen to the development of issues that impacts job performance and personal judgement. Some officers are often former military, and the level of mental health issues associated with deployment and training has remained a consistent issue amongst veterans. I believe that people should have healthcare that provides access to mental health support, including our police officers.  

Will you vote for issuing all Wilmington Police officers body cameras?

Yes. Our officials have dragged their feet on this issue. I have pushed for this for a long time. We know the role body cameras play and it’s about time every officer is issued one. 

Since police officers are public servants, do you believe footage from arrest and police misconduct should be made public record?

Yes. The practice of limiting footage to specific parties allows for deception and often blocking those who are related to subjects within the footage. This should be public record, and archived with other information like disciplinary records. We must end qualified immunity and normalize the practice of shielding officers from being held accountable as public servants. 

If elected would you create and/or vote yes on an ordinance to end “no knock warrants”?

Yes. No knock warrants make up around 40 percent (about 20,000 per year) of all warrants and have became a common feature of policing during the War on Drugs in the 1980s. Since, it has led to the deaths of innocent people — most recently Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. Further, we have seen reports of false incidents through acts of doxxing or “swatting”, where depending on the severity of the report a swat team or highly militarized police force will raid a residence with the use of  no knock practices. While it’s a complex and multilayered issues, the solution is very simple: ban and end no knock warrants and practices. If elected, I will seek to lead on this issue and push for the ordinance to end it once and for all. 

Will you vote in favor of ending Operation Safe Streets, which utilizes aggressive policing tactics to harass Wilmington families and community members?

Yes. This operation has been around since I was a kid and I’ve seen the impact it’s had on my neighbors and community. I have also been harassed and subjected to policing under this operation. If we want to end gun violence and solve the root causes of crime in our city, this operation is not the approach needed in Wilmington or anywhere else. I will overwhelmingly vote in favor of ending Operation Safe Streets. 

Will you vote in favor of a community review board that has the power to investigate incidents and complaints, audit policy compliance, has hiring and firing authority, and make records and hearings public to the greatest extent possible?

Yes. This is an overwhelming need for my community, who has been indiscriminately impacted by abuses of power and extrajudicial actions by police. As a community organizer and advocate, I have championed this approach and have worked with others across the country on this in their respective areas. The communities are experts in their issues and needs. They should have an authoritative position in how issues are approached in their neighborhoods, including reviewing various components of policing. 

Will you require and fund Wilmington Police to operate a pre-arrest diversion program for people with substance abuse issues (a model similar to New Castle County’s Hero Help)?

Yes. We should not continue the unsustainable practices of using individuals who are associated with violence and arresting to confront substance abuse or mental health issues. We should actively invest and utilize nonviolent resources to de-escalate and approach issues like substance abuse. This also includes qualified personnel who have the ability to administer resuscitative drugs to counter an overdose or have the knowledge to quickly understand what an individual is  experiencing, rather than lashing out and arresting a person under the influence or experiencing traumatic issues. I would look at similar models within and beyond Delaware in order to create a sustainable model that meets the gaps and challenges we face in Wilmington. 

Communities of color in Wilmington have borne the brunt of aggressive policing and war on crime policies for decades. Those communities also bear the scars of decades of discrimination in housing, education, and access to economic opportunity. What will you do as a Council member, Mayor, or treasurer to repair that harm?

I will seek go work with key stakeholders and other elected officials to establish a truth, justice, and reconciliation task force or committee that outlines the tangible impact of the decades of failed and discriminatory policies, and proposes solutions to redress the injustices our neighbors and communities in Wilmington have faced. Further, as a Council member, I would actively work to address the root causes of these issues with progressive ideas that center justice and equity as the foundation for repairing the harm done to Wilmingtonians.  As our nation undergoes a great reckoning on racial justice, our local communities must take the initiative to deliver justice to its population. This has been the basis of my platform and my work as a community organizer, and if elected, I will champion policies and actions that will provide justice for decades of discrimination in housing, education, and access to economic opportunity.