RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Attorney General Mark Herring wants more power to investigate ‘use of force’ incidents in Virginia.
Citing the example of the officer accused of killing George Floyd in Minneapolis, AG Herring said additional authority at the state level could help prevent police brutality in the future.
Derek Chauvin, the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, had 18 complaints filed against him with the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division.
As is the case in Virginia, Minnesota’s attorney general doesn’t currently have the explicit power to investigate behavioral patterns in police departments. That is why a coalition of attorneys general from 18 states are asking Congress to give them the authority to review complaints and order reforms in federal court.
“We cannot allow police misconduct and brutality to go unchecked,” Herring said.
In Virginia, Herring said that is largely what is happening right now. He said there is no state database tracking ‘use of force’ complaints and his office doesn’t have the power to pull that data.
“Allowing state attorneys general to do this would be a really important accountability tool, especially in the face of the [Deparment of Justice] refusing to do it,” Herring said.
Historically, Herring said the U.S. Department of Justice has conducted these investigations, identifying problems in police departments large and small. However, he said the DOJ hasn’t initiated an investigation since 2017.
“I would envision this to be something that is ongoing and an additional responsibility for our office,” Herring said.
Congressional Democrats introduced a bill on Monday that, if passed, would allow attorneys general to create an independent oversight process. It would also require police departments to report ‘use of force’ data to a “National Police Misconduct Registry.”
Herring said state lawmakers could grant his office investigative authority as well but he said the change would come faster with action from the U. S. Congress.