Virginia police chief association shares reform proposals with Northam

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As cities and counties across the country enact police reforms in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police shared its recommendations in a meeting Tuesday with Gov. Ralph Northam.

Proposals include expanding the standard for decertification, which prohibits individuals from serving as a Virginia law enforcement officer. Under the current system, officers typically are only decertified if convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor that involves moral turpitude.

The association recommends that a Brady standard, which concerns the integrity of an officer, to be added to the statute. It also calls on more research into whether to broaden “the statute to include critical policy violations to ensure uniformity across all agencies for those specific policies.”

READ: VACP Recommendations to Move Virginia Law Enforcement Forward

According to the VACP, at least 25 percent of the deadly force encounters across the U.S. involve people who suffer from mental illness or in crisis. Due to these concerns, the association informed Northam that adopting policies to address the need for mental health reforms and providing access to services “has the highest likelihood of reducing police use of force.”

The VACP has proposed a plan to fund crisis intervention training for all sworn law enforcement officers, which would focus on deescalation practices, and the creation of “co-response programs.” This strategy would make way for mental health professionals to join officers while responding to calls involving those in crisis.

Suggestions provided to the governor Tuesday could be implemented statewide, but some may need to be reviewed by specific localities.

“While some recommendations may be appropriate for statewide application, others need to be left to local option,” a release from the association said.

Other recommendations involve department’s hiring process, with the association calling for thorough reviews of all candidates’ records and backgrounds.

“We all agree that from time to time there are officers that shouldn’t be part of our profession,” said Howard Hall, of the VACP. He says a strong majority of officers are upstanding but adds that there are ways to better address problems within departments—including strengthening hiring standards.

“Make sure that proper background investigations are done, and that information is available to our investigators when they are researching someone’s background,” Hall said.

That’s done already by accredited departments, Hall mentions, but more should achieve that operating status.

8News asked, what about reporting field information like at a traffic stop? A Virginia law requiring such actions takes effect July 1, but Hall says police are not equipped to make this happen by then—saying the state should invest in technology to help.

“Most of us are having to make software changes to our records management systems and work through our technology companies,” Hall said. “From a time perspective, it’s really just not going to be feasible.”

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