House Democrats passed eight different policing reform bills during its Friday session, leaving Republicans lawmakers feeling ignored and unheard by the majority.
The policing bills spanned from banning no-knock search warrants and the use of neck restraints by law enforcement to requiring that officers report any wrongdoings by their colleagues or be subject to discipline.
Republicans, who have expressed many of the same concerns about the bills throughout the committee process, felt that the Democratic majority passed the legislation without listening to conservative lawmakers’ amendments or comment from law enforcement agencies.
“Today’s session was disappointing, but not for the reasons many may think,” House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said in a statement. “Much of the legislation rammed through today by Democrats had the potential to be thoughtful reforms of how police do businesses. Sadly, the majority was so bent on punishing law enforcement that they refused to listen to reason.”
“If a fugitive has a weapon and you are trying to capture the individual, sometimes in those no-knock situations you only have a split second by which to enter a building or house and try to apprehend that individual or fugitive,” Del. Wendell Walker (R-Bedford County) said in an interview with The Virginia Star. “So, I think we are trying to second guess the law enforcement when they are having to make split second decisions on how to go after a criminal.”
When the bill was first brought up during session Del. Buddy Fowler (R-Spotsylvania County) argued that not enough time was spent on the legislation and that several law enforcement agencies were in opposition.
Del. Lashrecse Aird (D-Chesterfield County) refuted Fowler’s claim and said that she had spoken to law enforcement who largely agreed with the legislation and their only concern was having ability to use a tool to act in emergency situations.
Del. Robert Bloxom (R-Virginia Beach) specifically mentioned officers being able to use a no-knock warrant in an extreme situation.
“The majority party would not put in there any type of amendment that would take in any extreme situations, Bloxom said. “I guess it’s better politics if you just put no-knock search warrants, but I do think it makes the police officers’ job much harder.”
House Bill 5069, which also adds a class six felony as punishment for any officers who uses a neck restraint, garnered even more complaints from Republicans because some would have voted for the bill if certain amendments were made.
During session Del. Ronnie Campbell (R-Augusta County), a former Virginia state trooper, spoke in opposition of the bill saying that it would ban the use a defensive neck restraint taught in police academies for officers to apply while in a fight with a person or a desperate situation.
Bloxom told The Star that state police and sheriff’s department had asked to put in an amendment which would allow officers to use a chokehold in an instance of life or death but the patron refused. Bloxom added that if such an amendment were included, that he would have voted for the bill.
Overall, some Republicans delegates feel as if they were completely ignored by the majority and that the bills make it harder for officers to do their job and putting law enforcement in further danger while on duty.
“Unfortunately Democrats chose to listen to the parts of their base that spend their evenings clashing with police, rather than to police officers and sheriff’s deputies, Gilbert said in a statement. “If these laws take effect, our Commonwealth will be less safe, and more police officers will lose their lives. And it was entirely avoidable.”
The only police reform bill that did not pass the House in Friday’s session called for law enforcement officers to be liable in court for compensatory and punitive damages and equitable relief with qualified immunity not counting as a defense.
The bill was defeated on a vote of Y-47 N-48 A-3.
The House will reconvene Tuesday afternoon to continue voting on more legislation.
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