PHOENIX, Arizona – The incoming governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia hailed public safety, funding the police and preserving qualified immunity for law enforcement officers as pillars of his election victory and his new administration a November 17 talk at the Republican Governor Association annual meetings in Phoenix.
“Let’s fund law enforcement, and oh, by the way, let’s protect qualified immunity, which protects law enforcement from frivolous lawsuits,” said Governor-elect Glenn A. Youngkin, who takes office January 15.
“Every other elected official has qualified immunity, why shouldn’t law enforcement have it? And, oh, by the way, let’s actually have a parole board that works for Virginia,” he said.
Youngkin said in addition to increasing resources for the police and protecting their qualified immunity, he would immediately reform the Virginia Parole Board.
“At the top of my list is our parole that has either forgotten that it must stand up for victims’ rights, not criminal rights,” he said.
“One of the nice things that the governor of Virginia can do on Day One is fire the parole board,” he said. “So, I pledge to fire the entire parole board and start all over again.”
The governor-elect said Virginia voters made a very clear statement when they voted him into office.
“Those issues that are impacting us every day, impacting our lives, how we raise our children, where we go to work, whether we have to take a vaccine or not, whether in fact we a drug trafficking issue up and down Highway 81 in Virginia – that emanates from Mexico – that is actually driving Virginians’ and Americans’ choices at the ballot box,” Youngkin said.
“One of the key ones in Virginia, and it emanates from a key philosophical difference on how we are going to keep our citizens safe,” he said. “Are we going to provide funding or not provide funding for law enforcement?”
Youngkin said he was not impressed by the choice or the public discourse surrounding the issue.
“I found this to be a rather this to be a rather silly debate,” he said.
“When I looked across Virginia, we’re at a 20-year high murder rate and formerly great cities rank among the top 65 most deadly cities in America,” said the resident of Great Falls. “Our capital, Richmond, is number 11, racing back to number one, where it was many years ago.”
The first Republican elected to statewide office in Virginia since 2009, said he was amazed that in the face of crime escalating in Virginia, the Democrats’ solution was to cut back on law enforcement.
“When you couple that with a philosophy that we are not going to provide the funding that law enforcement needs, but on top of that we’re going to demean law enforcement, and then we’re going to scoff when we see the depleted resources – it’s no wonder we see violent crime on the rise,” he said.
Youngkin said it was a very easy policy decision for him.
“Why don’t we fund law enforcement? Why don’t we get them the resources that they need, so they can raise salaries and attract more people into law enforcement?” he asked.
This is what is making Virginia and the rest of America less safe, he said.
Youngkin said the philosophy held by the people running the institutions created to keep Virginians safe was the problem.
“People had forgotten that they go to work every day, as elected officials to keep Virginians safe,” he said.
The incoming Old Dominion governor said the final piece of his public safety agenda was fixing how mental health is addressed in Virginia.
Mental health issues are a constant and heavy draw on already scarce law enforcement resources as police officers find themselves responsible for the caring and monitoring of Virginians struggling with mental illness, he said.
“We have a mental health system, like in so many states, that has suffered mightily during this pandemic,” he said.
“What’s happened as a result is that law enforcement bears the brunt.”
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Neil W. McCabe is the national political editor of The Star News Network. Follow him at Twitter: @neilwmccabe2.