CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin made a stop in Chesterfield County Saturday to meet with law enforcement agencies like the Chesterfield County Sheriff and Chesterfield County Police for a roundtable discussion at the Eanes-Pittman Public Safety Training Center.
“This is just the first of many of these sessions,” Youngkin told reporters following the discussion.
Following the roundtable, Youngkin relayed the message that the discussion is the beginning of the way he expects to approach the many challenges that he said there are in the law enforcement community today.
“We’re sitting here at a 20-year high in murder rate in Virginia. We see some of our great cities like Richmond ranked in the top 65 deadliest cities in America,” he said.
In the roundtable, Youngkin said he laid out his day one plan, which would include comprehensively funding law enforcement with increased salaries, equipment budgets and training.
He also said he wants to make sure his administration protects qualified immunity, protecting law enforcement from what he calls ‘frivolous civil lawsuits’.
Youngkin pointed out that law enforcement agencies are dealing with staffing shortages much like other industries are, saying ‘we have to increase the pipeline of folks coming into law enforcement’.
The mental and behavioral health system was a big topic in the roundtable, according to Youngkin.
“Our mental health system, our behavioral health system is in a state of crisis,” he said.
He said the mental health system crisis ripples out into the education system, law enforcement community and broadly into communities across Virginia.
Like he said in previous campaign rallies, Youngkin plans to change out the parole board, telling reporters Saturday he will have a new one on day one.
“I want to make sure we have a parole board that, yes, evaluates the appropriateness of granting parole, but also one that looks out for victims’ rights as well,” he said.
On Saturday, NRA Virginia officials confirmed with 8News they plan to ask Youngkin to remove gun control lobbyist Lori Haas from her executive appointment to the State Crime Commission.
NRA officials told 8News they feel the appointment is a clear conflict of interest, as the SCC is tasked with reviewing firearms-related legislation.
Officials said it is the equivalent of a Dominion Energy lobbyist being appointed to service on the State Corporation Commission.
Youngkin responded to the request following the roundtable discussion Saturday.
“There’s lots of people calling on me to do lots of things. What I do know out of the box is that I have committed that I will in fact have a new secretary of education. And I will have a new superintendent for our schools. We will have a new parole board,” Youngkin said. “And, from there, I’m going to evaluate all of the positions in government and make sure that we have the most qualified people that are going to press forward with our agenda.”
Youngkin said he has not spoken with attorney general elect Jason Miyares about reviewing what the current parole board has done, but said he’s sure it will come up in the future. He said he wants to make sure Virginia has a complete fresh start.
Youngkin went on to say that challenges surrounding the mental and behavioral health system were a main topic in the roundtable discussion.
He said one of those challenges are the requirements for law enforcement to stay with a Virginian who’s having a mental health crisis for an extended period of time because there is no place to take them to.
“It’s further depleting the capacity of an already stretched law enforcement community and there are so
many good ideas on how to address that,” he said.
He also said challenges that come from Commonwealth’s Attorneys like fulfilling the requirements for jury trials, the number of jury trials and the stress that’s going to place on the system was also discussed at the roundtable.
When asked about the recent violence in Richmond and how he plans to prevent future gun violence, Youngkin said, “I think we first have to start with making sure that we have a fully-funded law enforcement community.”
Youngkin said another step in preventing violence is to engage with the community, referencing a program that’s been used in several cities to reduce gun violence by communicating with young people and gang members, giving them jobs and looking at patterns of gun violence in the city.
“There are so many successful community engagement programs that have worked across the country like Operation Ceasefire, community engagement programs that I think should be pressed to the forefront,” he said.