Virginia House Democrats to Introduce Legislation ‘Demilitarizing Police Departments,’ Ending Qualified Immunity, and More During Special Session

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Virginia’s legislature will meet in a Special Session on August 18, and House Democrats are eyeing new laws and regulations that will place tighter regulations on Virginia police departments and officers.

In a statement released today, the House Democrats listed a myriad of points (detailed at the end of this article) they hope to address by introducing new legislation during the Special Session.

Among those points are goals to reform Virginia’s Criminal Justice and Police systems.

Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41) said that in addition to “a bold plan” to “support the Commonwealth’s students, teachers, workers, and health care system” in response to COVID-19, the House Democrats will “also pass long-overdue legislation to reform our police and criminal justice systems.”

House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-46) commented on the new legislation, saying the Democrats’ goal is “reforming systems that perpetuate [racial] inequities, including police procedures and many aspects of criminal justice.”

These issues are “a top priority for House Democrats,” said Herring.

The House Democrats announced that, in addition to budget-related items, they would address COVID-19 relief, specifically tackling things like “requiring businesses to grant paid sick leave,” “providing immunity from civil claims related to COVID-19 for complying with health guidance,” and “protecting Virginians from eviction during a public health emergency.”

The statement included an extensive list of items related to police and criminal justice reform as well.

During the Special Session, Democrats will introduce new laws that will affect items like sentence credits for good behavior, the expungement of records, and prohibiting no-knock warrants.

Also introduced will be legislation “demilitarizing police departments by prohibiting the acquisition and use of certain weapons by law enforcement agencies,”

The statement did not specify which weapons would be prohibited.

As anticipated, Democrats will also attempt to eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement, which protects officers acting within police guidelines from individual civil suits.

There are several other points related to law enforcement and criminal justice listed in the statement.

Final points on the flyer include codifying Juneteenth as a Virginia state holiday and removal of Confederate statues and other war monuments.

The full list of points enumerated in today’s statement follows below.

COVID-19 Relief:

  • Requiring businesses to grant paid sick leave for Virginia workers.
  • Prohibiting garnishments of stimulus relief checks. (Office of Attorney General bill)
  • Establishing a presumption of workers’ compensation for first responders, teachers, and other high-risk essential workers.
  • Providing immunity from civil claims related to COVID-19 for complying with health guidance.
  • Combating price gouging for Personal Protective Equipment. (Office of Attorney General bill)
  • Protecting Virginians from eviction during a public health emergency.
  • Creating a Commonwealth Marketplace for PPE Acquisition.
  • Mandating transparency requirements for congregate-care facilities during a public health emergency.

Criminal Justice and Police Reform:

  • Reforming Virginia’s laws related to the expungement of police and court records.
  • Increasing good behavior sentence credits.
  • Strengthening prosecutorial ability to dismiss charges.
  • Eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.
  • Prohibiting no-knock warrants.
  • Banning the use of chokeholds and other lethal restraints used by law enforcement.
  • Creating a statewide Marcus Alert system.
  • Strengthening laws related to Citizen Review Panels.
  • Eliminating certain pretextual police stops.
  • Demilitarizing police departments by prohibiting the acquisition and use of certain weapons by law enforcement agencies.
  • Banning sexual relations between officers and arrestees.
  • Empowering the Attorney General to conduct “pattern or practice” investigations of police forces that appear to be violating constitutional rights, including unlawful discrimination. (Office of Attorney General bill)
  • Expanding the definition of hate crimes to include false 911 calls made on the basis of race.
  • Standardizing and enhancing training for all police academies.
  • Mandating the duty of one officer to report and intervene during the misconduct of another officer.
  • Requiring decertification of law enforcement officers who fail to properly perform their duties.
  • Strengthening the assessments and vetting required before hiring law enforcement officers.
  • Diversify the Department of Criminal Justice Services’ Committee on Training.

Making Virginia More Equitable:

  • Codifying Juneteenth as an official holiday of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • Allowing localities or local governments and communities greater latitude in the process of removing Confederate statues and other war monuments.

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Sam Medley is a journalist at the Tennessee Star and Star News Network. You can follow Sam at Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Skip Plitt – C’ville Photography. CC BY-SA 3.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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