Ian "Jahiti" Smith

Candidate for District 6

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, I support making police disciplinary records, and other relevant data, public in order to foster more transparency from and accountability of the Wilmington Police Department. In 2017, the 6th District incumbent voted against a resolution that would distribute the Wilmington Police Department Manual to each member of the City Council, stating she did not believe Council should have “direct access” to the manual. If elected, I would work toward more transparency to improve our communities’ trust in the Wilmington Police Department, including supporting the General Assembly in their efforts to reform the criminal justice system.

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

Yes, I would vote in support of an ordinance which prohibits the Wilmington Police Department from engaging in civil asset forfeiture of individuals who are not convicted of a crime. I would explore other national models where justified forfeited assets are deposited into a general fund to be re-invested directly into the community. With respect to the data transparency question asked earlier, it was difficult to find available data on the amount of revenue earned from this practice. I could only find a newspaper article that stated the Wilmington Police Department secured $238,881 from civil asset forfeiture, in 2016, but there was no source for this data. This is another example of why there is a need for more transparency.

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, I am in support of the Wilmington Police Department collecting and publishing this data. I believe in data-driven policy which requires both quantitative data (i.e. counts of numbers) and qualitative data (stories of peoples lived experiences) in order to make informed policy decisions. 

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

No, at this time, I would not support periodic psychological evaluations of Wilmington police officers. However, I am open to working in partnership with all relevant stakeholders, including mental health experts, to better understand this proposal, research national models and identify ways to ensure police officers are of strong mental health. I do believe there should be funding for first responders to address the trauma and stress of their employment, especially for officers of marginalized identities who not only manage the stress of their employment, but also the stress brought on from societal injustices. 

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

Yes, I am in full support of implementing a body worn camera program in Wilmington. In 2019, the 6th District incumbent was absent from a conversation on body worn cameras that took place at a joint meeting of the Public Safety and Finance and Economic Development Committee on November 11. If elected, I would not miss such critical moments to fight for the desires of my constituents, including body worn cameras, as well as increased community cameras. 

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

Yes, I believe most footage from arrest and police misconduct should be made public record. There are some times when extra precautions may need to take place in order to protect the safety and privacy of children, victims of violence, and innocent bystanders who are caught on film. As well, there may be times when film may not be released if it would impact an ongoing investigation.

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

Yes, I would support efforts to end “no knock warrants,” a practice that puts home occupants, bystanders, and first responders at risk. Further research would be required to determine the best policy response, and local data on “no knock warrants” in Wilmington/the State of Delaware should influence the decisions being made. I would also research national best practices to learn from the lessons of other jurisdictions. For example, some jurisdictions are banning “no knock warrants,” unless there is a threat of safety (i.e. a hostage situation) or if the officers have obtained an arrest warrant.

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

Yes, I will vote against tactics that result in the harassment and over policing of low-income Black and Brown communities in Wilmington. Operation Safe Streets has resulted in the over- surveillance of innocent individuals and fuels the distrust many communities have with law enforcement. The investments made into Operation Safe Streets could be relocated to support community policing efforts and other preventative strategies to reduce crime like investing violence intervention models that employ trusted, credible messengers and people most proximal to our communities in order to interrupt violence in the community and challenge harmful norms that condone and perpetuate violence. 

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, I support the development of a Community Review Board that has the power to investigate incidents and complaints, audit policy compliance, has hiring and firing authority and makes records and hearings public to the greatest extent possible. Procedural justice is possible when the community is involved in processes that impact their community. For that reason, I would support efforts that expand opportunities for community members to be authentically engaged in the criminal justice process. 

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, I am in full support of implementing pre-arrest diversion programs for people with substance abuse issues and believe this model can be expanded overall to reduce introducing community members to the criminal justice system. With respect to substance abuse issues, we must treat these matters as a public health issue and non-law enforcement tactics should be utilized, especially in communities of color who have been subject to long-standing over-policing. 

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?

In order to address systemic inequities we must make concrete policy changes. Symbolic gestures are never enough. We must go through a process of trust and reconciliation, admit the wrong doings we have intentionally and unintentionally caused to communities of color and seek opportunities for redress. This looks like expanding access to home ownership opportunities so that communities of color have the ability to generate wealth. We must also work to address our failing school systems, expand access to healthy food in communities that are located in food deserts, and provide workforce development opportunities so that people have the ability to earn a livable wage. Systemic change is only possible when we address the systemic inequities that have harmed our communities for centuries, and if elected, I will work with my constituents to identify policies that create equity for all.