WPD Chief: Jump-out squads to be "revisited"

By Tom Lehman 10:28pm, February 12, 2013 - Updated 6:35pm, February 13, 2013
Wilmington Police Chief Christine Dunning and City Councilman Mike Brown
Wilmington's police chief says the department will "revisit" a controversial strategy to combat the city's crime.

That tactic known by many as jump-out squads may return, a detail confirmed by Chief Christine Dunning after a meeting with city council's public safety committee Tuesday night.

"Normally on that, we'll set up surveillance, watch things, build up enough probable cause, before we stop a person because we have reason to stop that person," Dunning says.

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Dunning briefed council members on the department's policing plan, which has been described as being a "work in progress," after city councilman and committee chair Mike Brown called for the meeting to enter executive session.

Prior to the meeting, Mayor Williams had hinted that jump-out squads would return as part of the policing plan, which was now confirmed by Dunning.

She says the tactic wouldn't be used indiscriminately, but only after investigators gather information and evidence.

"They don't randomly pick a corner, a lot of times you'll get the calls or our confidential informants will call us too," she says.

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However, the chief is hesitant to use the term "jump-out squad."

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"I try to be very careful in that because I don't want people with the reasoning thinking all these people are going to just jump out of a van and line up everybody. There's work that's done before people come out and address hotspots," she says.

The policing plan would also target criminal activity in problem areas and properties.

Previous Mayor Jim Baker drew criticism because of the police department's use of "jump-out" squads during his administration.

Policing plan divulged behind closed doors

After the conclusion of the committee meeting, Brown said the meeting was into executive session to prevent criminals from gaining information on the specific placement and allocation of officers.

Brown, who said he is "not a fan" of executive session said he didn't want to give inside information to those committing illegal activity.

"I've never been one to sit there and like to hear these numbers thrown out about where officers are going to be at this time or day or night around the city and then at some point they play it back on Channel 22 (WITN) and because the officers are on one side of town or five blocks away, ten blocks away, that means that criminal activity can take place in another part of the community," Brown says.

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Brown was also highly critical of Mayor Williams' security detail during the public session of the meeting, at one point calling it an "unacceptable" use of taxpayer money.

Dunning said Williams' detail does not consist of five permanently assigned officers, but has 1-2 officers with others worked in rotation based on the mayor's schedule.

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