Delaware County announces Task Force on Criminal Justice Reform

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Delaware County Council and the Office of the District Attorney today announced the formation of a countywide Task Force on Criminal Justice Reform, to be chaired by District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer. “For too long, distrust has been allowed to exist between law enforcement and the communities that they are sworn to protect and serve,” said DA Stollsteimer. “It is time to face the problems in our community honestly and openly, and to bring the criminal justice system in this County into alignment with our shared values. We need to look not just at the actions of police – we must also look at our practices as prosecutors, as public defenders, as well as our approach to probation, parole and incarceration.”

County Council member Elaine Schaefer emphasized the need to look at the County’s role in fostering equality and justice in ways outside the scope law enforcement, for example in the areas of public health, education, and substance abuse. “As a Council we are committed to breaking down the silos that prevent creative problem solving. It is only by thinking holistically that we will be able to effectively address some of these intractable problems,” said Schaefer.

“The Task Force will take a critical and hard look at our criminal justice system and our local government and examine what policies and practices need to change or be improved.” said Dr. Monica Taylor, Vice Chair of Delaware County Council. “We know that this type of work doesn’t happen overnight, but this is where we can start. This is the beginning of much needed and long overdue change that we are hopeful will lead to equality and spark unity in our communities.”

Task Force organizers plan initially to establish four working groups, as follows: (1) 21st Century Policing; (2) Principles for a 21st Century Prosecutor; (3) Legislative Change; (4) County Government’s Impact on Achieving Equality and Justice in Delco. Additional working groups and/or subgroups will be created as necessary.

The Task Force plans that each working group will prepare a report containing concrete and achievable recommendations. The Task Force recognizes that some working groups may need more time than others and, as a result, it plans to announce recommendations on a “rolling basis.” It is hoped that some recommendations will be finalized by this Fall.

The work of the Task Force is a complex undertaking and will require the time and effort of many stakeholders. The Task Force has already contacted many of the organizations that it expects will play an important role in the success of the Task Force, including: the Sheriff’s Office, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Chiefs of Police Association, the NAACP, the Delaware County Black Caucus, our Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, state legislators and municipal leaders, the criminal defense bar and the Public Defender’s Office, as well as various community stakeholders. Additional organizations will be consulted as needed. The names of specific individuals from these organizations will be provided as plans are finalized.

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Delaware County, presently consisting of over 184 square miles divided into forty-nine municipalities is the oldest settled section of Pennsylvania.

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