Donna Mitchell, City Manager of my home town, Dover, DE,  proves the importance of having the right person in the job!  Her action in allocating funds for further police training could save/improve many lives.

Update: My Letter to Editor was PUBLISHED by our state’s largest paper, The Wilmington News Journal, on 6/26/20. The paper combined it with my Letter about our A G, Kathy Jennings …. so both of my Letters saw ink, and thousands of eyeball.

Excerpts from the Article:

Dover City Manager Donna Mitchell said she knew that she had to do her part to add new tools and additional training for Dover Police Department officers, especially amid the outcry for police reform following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis on May 25.

That’s why she decided to make a last-minute change to the city of Dover’s FY21 budget, adding $83,300 to it so that Dover police officers can conduct new training initiatives, before the ordinance’s final reading took place at the Dover City Council meeting on Monday night.

The budget was passed by a 7-2 vote, with Councilmen Tim Slavin and Roy Sudler Jr. voting against it.

Mrs. Mitchell said that she had met with Dover Police Chief Thomas Johnson and agreed that a response was needed in order to show that the city was serious in doing its due diligence in response to police issues that have been taking place around the country.

“When Chief Johnson explained his need to me, I didn’t feel that stating we would find the money in the upcoming budget would send the right message and it needed to be taken care of now,” Mrs. Mitchell said. “I reduced the general fund budget balance to increase the training and consulting expenses Chief Johnson requested in his recent revision.

“The police training budget is now $88,300, as compared to the proposed $55,000 (about a 60 percent increase), and an additional amount has been added for consulting in the amount of $50,000 to assist with expert training to be done on-site. The increase in total budget is $83,300.”

To cover the budget increase Mrs. Mitchell said the city will decrease the general fund budget balance, or the cash used to pay bills while waiting for utility or other payments to come in. She added that all city departments were originally asked to reduce their budgets to account for losses due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic this year.

Chief Johnson said the new training measures will involve every sworn-in member of the police department.

“Under stress and critical moments police officers’ behaviors revert back to their training,” Chief Johnson said. “Simultaneously, you’re considering a myriad of factors — what you’re trying to do, what the overall situation is, the backdrop, the environment, time and distance, and one of the things that isn’t part of muscle memory yet is — looking at the (George Floyd) video that prompted all this reflection in all of us I believe, is the mere fact that the (Minneapolis) officers lost some situational awareness and also did some other things that regrettably we all hated to see happen. “They also probably didn’t have knowledge to the degree that’s now necessary about body positioning, about pressure, about responses that physiologically occur when two human beings are involved in a physical struggle. I thought that the biggest representation of the biggest professional failure that occurred in Minneapolis was the total lack of awareness of that person’s physical demise underneath the use of force being applied by those officers, so our goal is to find training.”

City Councilmen David Anderson and Sudler said they were encouraged that these new training measures are being taken, but also pushed for Dover police to add body cameras to their arsenal to add some transparency and accountability to interactions between police and citizens.

The police chief promised that his department would be fiduciary responsible and will return any money not used for the training to the city’s coffers. As for body cameras, Mayor Robin Christiansen said that he believes funding for those will soon come from other sources.

“I definitely concur with the proposal for body cams,” the mayor said. “I think that after an incident that we had (in Dover) I’ve always been supportive of (body camera) and I’d like to inform members of council that I believe that through the attorney general’s office and the governor’s office that we’re going to accomplish a statewide purchase of those body cams. That seems to be one of their initiatives.”

With Mrs. Mitchell prepared to leave her post as Dover’s city manager this fall, the search is just beginning for her replacement.

In her search to help the city fill the position, Kim Hawkins — director of human resources — sent the following statement out to recruiting firms to help expedite the process. “Dover is beginning its search for our next City Manager as the current City Manager is retiring on October 30, 2020. City Council as directed me to obtain price quotes from several executive recruiting firms to assist in this process. We are seeking an executive firm to provide the following services: Post the position and obtain a diverse pool of qualified applicants; Pre-screen the applicants and provide, hopefully, eight applicants to the city for review.”

Five consulting firms have expressed interest in helping Dover find its next city manager, including: Colin Baenziger and Associates; GovHRusa; HCSmith; Mercer and Novak.


Letter to the Editor: The Right Person for the Job – 6/25/20 – kra

Donna Mitchell, City Manager of my home town, Dover, DE,  proves the importance of having the right person in the job!  Her action in allocating funds for further police training could save/improve many lives.

She did not dilly dally; she acted swiftly at a critical time [these are indeed critical times for our nation] to do the right thing. Her shoes will be hard to fill when she departs her post this Fall.

Ken Abraham, former prosecutor, and founder of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE, Dover, DE 302-423-4067

The Whole Story:

City manager makes room for additional police training