RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — During Thursday’s press briefing, Governor Ralph Northam spoke out about the need for comprehensive police reform.
The governor said police reform is necessary and that he’s already been talking about it with legislators. According to Northam, a fairly ambitions agenda will be introduced during a special session in August.
Ahead of their special session, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus called for immediate action to reform the police.
“The Commonwealth is past the point for studies on policing and law enforcement—immediate action must be taken to eliminate law enforcement abuse, prevent and punish racist behaviors, weed out institutional discrimination, and increase accountability at all levels of law enforcement” VLBD said in a statement Wednesday.
The group laid out some sweeping legislative proposals:
Address & Combat Racism Directly by:
- Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis in the Commonwealth of Virginia
- Uncovering Racial Disparities in all Areas of Policy & Creating Solutions to Bridge the Gaps
- Expanding Hate Crimes to Include False 911 Calls Based on Race
- Requiring Courts to Publish Racial and Other Demographic Data of all Low-level Offenses
Hold Police Accountable, Strengthen Regulation, & Improve Transparency by:
- Creating a Civilian Review Board with Subpoena Power
- Ending Qualified Immunity & Making Changes to Sovereign Immunity
- Establishing a Statewide Officer Database
- Standardizing and Reforming Police Administration, Training, and Accountability
- Expanding Police Decertification Criteria
- Expanding the Use of Body Cams
- Requiring Independent Investigations for All Police-Involved Shootings/Deaths
Prevent Law Enforcement Excessive Use of Force by:
- Defining and Restricting Excessive Use of Force
- Banning the Use of Chokeholds
- Restricting the Use of Tear Gas and Militarization Tactics and Weapons Against Civilians
- Passing “Breonna’s Law” to End No-Knock Warrants
Replace Law Enforcement’s Role in Certain Areas with Trained Specialists by:
- Implementing the “Marcus Alert” to Require Behavioral/Mental Health Professionals to Respond to those thought to be having Mental Health Crises
- DIVESTING from Large Law Enforcement Budgets & INVESTING More in Communities
- Reducing SRO Presence in Schools & Replacing them with Mental Health Professionals
Continue the Fight for Criminal Justice Reform by:
- Implementing Automatic Expungement
- Reinstituting Parole
- Passing Cash Bail Reform
- Increasing Good Behavior Sentence Credits
- Legalizing Marijuana
Pass COVID-19 Relief & Protections by:
- Expanding Protections Related to Housing & Evictions
- Providing Rent and Mortgage Relief
- Classifying Frontline Workers as Essential Workers
- Requiring Hazard Pay and PPE for Essential Workers
- Guaranteeing Paid Sick Leave
Overall, Delegate Delores McQuinn said this legislation would create a better relationship between police and communities of color.
Gov. Northam seemed to agree with the caucus, saying that the group laid out some “good ideas.” The governor said he wants to go through a process to come up with a plan.
Virginia Republicans have not commented on this police reform. However, earlier this month GOP Leader Todd Gilbert condemned the idea of defunding the police, while saying police reform is needed.
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