RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Starting this summer, police chiefs across Virginia will be able to set curfews during times of civil unrest thanks to a new state law. But the new rule is already stirring up some controversy.
Senate Bill 1455, better known as the curfew bill, was recently signed into law, giving police chiefs in Virginia the discretion to set curfews during times of civil unrest.
8News spoke with Robert Barnette, the president of the Virginia NAACP. He said the organization’s issue is with the language in the law and that without more clarity, and there is worry it will negatively impact people of color.
The NAACP said it is disappointed because the bill has left them with more questions than answers on how it will be enforced.
“I just think it’s unfortunate that this bill was passed with so many questions and it just continues the pipeline to prison for African Americans or people of color,” Barnette said.
The law goes into effect on July 1. It will allow police chiefs to “impose curfews for up to 24 hours if there is ‘an imminent threat of any civil commotion or disturbance in the nature of a riot which constitutes a clear and present danger.”
The NAACP argues this phrasing could mean anything.
“The bill lacks definition of a civil commotion or disturbance,” Barnette said. “We stipulated that to the governor, but he chose to sign it anyway.”
Barnette said that there were actions that could have been taken before the bill was passed. The Virginia NAACP says that it urged Gov. Glenn Youngkin to veto the bill because they worry that it will give police chiefs and city leaders the ability to take matters into their own hands and to create their own definition of a civil disturbance.
“We have to define imminent threat and civil commotion or disturbance so everybody would be on the same page,” Barnette said. “It just puts people in a situation to be caught up in the criminal justice system.”
The group said that inaction left them feeling unheard and ignored.
“We could have had more discussions on the issues and how they would impact black and Brown communities,” Barnette said. “We don’t think they were received well at all.”
8News contacted several police agencies to find out how this new law will be enforced by the separate departments and what the curfew execution process would look like. We have not received a response back yet.
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