The House on Tuesday reconsidered and passed House Bill 5013, a controversial measure that allows law enforcement officers to be held liable in court for actions taken while on duty without qualified immunity as a defense.
The bill was originally defeated by the House on Friday (47-Y 48-N 3-A) with several Democrats opposing their party to vote in opposition. The bill was also defeated last Monday in the Appropriations Committee before being reconsidered and advanced.
On Tuesday, the bill passed by a vote of 49-Y 45-N 2-A.
“When it comes to liabilities, these officers are well trained professionals, and if they have to use a certain maneuver to control a suspect or a criminal, and it’s their life versus the subject, then they have to do what they have to do,” Del. Wendell Walker (R-Bedford County) said in an interview with The Virginia Star. “But, that is not the everyday case. So, no officers of any level should be liable for any lawsuit damages in pursuit of fulfilling their job requirements.”
Del. Nicholas Freitas (R-Culpeper County) told The Star there was a lot of bipartisan support on a range of policing reform bills being considered during the 2020 special session, but the legislation would be submitted in a clear left-wing fashion, which was enough to deter bipartisanship.
Freitas continued: “If Democrats are basically going to tell officers that the chance of them losing their livelihood and losing their house or their savings or everything else goes up exponentially when they actually have to do their job, when it gets tough, then I think Democrats are asking for a police force that doesn’t actually engage.”
Both Freitas and Walker guessed that the Democratic caucus had done some strong-arming of specific members over the holiday weekend to get the proper number of votes for passage.
Del. Ibraheem Samirah (D-Fairfax County), one of the Democrats that voted in opposition on Friday, was the member of the prevailing side to call for the motion to reconsider the bill.
The Star reached out to multiple Democratic delegates to comment – including the bill’s sponsor Del. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond City) – but did not hear back by press time.
Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman echoed the concerns of Walker and Freitas saying that he was very disturbed the bill had passed and that those pushing the legislation had no idea how it would impact law enforcement.
Chapman added he thought the bill was ill advised, that it could be a detriment to the Commonwealth and that it will be harder to recruit good people into law enforcement.
The Senate Judiciary Committee already rejected a similar bill two weeks ago but will have to repeat those debates in front of the entire body soon.
“I hope the Senate has more sense than the house does,” Walker said. “I hope it won’t pass in the Senate.”
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