Virginia Governor Passes A Long List Of Police Reforms, Including A Ban On No-Knock Warrants

from the just-forty-nine-states-to-go dept

They're not screwing around with police reform in Virginia. Plenty of states and cities are reevaluating the way law enforcement money is spent and how agencies operate following nationwide protests against police brutality, but few of these discussions have resulted in solid changes. There's been more discussion than action. Virginia's governor is all about action, it would appear. As NBC12 reports, a long list of reforms has been signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam.

Governor Northam has been working closely with legislators on these measures since early summer after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked unrest.

“Too many families, in Virginia and across our nation, live in fear of being hurt or killed by police,” Governor Northam said. “These new laws represent a tremendous step forward in rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. I am grateful to the legislators and advocates who have worked so hard to make this change happen. Virginia is better, more just, and more equitable with these laws on our books.”

The entire list of signed bills can be viewed here, most of which deal with law enforcement issues. Much of what's included here is surprising -- not because it's groundbreaking, but because it simply didn't exist before now. It's hard to believe it's 2020 and we're just now getting around to doing things like mandating background checks for law enforcement hires and making it a felony for law enforcement officers to engage in sexual relationships with arrestees and inmates.

But there are plenty of other positive changes -- many of which aren't in place elsewhere in the county. With these passages, Virginia becomes only the third state in the nation to ban no-knock warrants. Another passed bill severely restricts what agencies can obtain through the Defense Department's 1033 program, forbidding the acquisition of high caliber firearms and weaponized aircraft. (To be fair, no law enforcement agency has ever acquired a "weaponized aircraft," and it seems unlikely the DoD would approve the transfer of one to local cop shops.)

Also newly enacted are training mandates for new law enforcement officers, including de-escalation techniques and bias awareness. Bad cops will no longer be as shielded from accountability, thanks to changes to the decertification process. The state's Criminal Justice Services Board -- which will now include more diverse viewpoints -- has been granted the power to initiate decertification proceedings, something law enforcement agencies seem very hesitant to do themselves.

This will also trickle down to the local level. Cities and towns are now permitted to form their own civilian review boards. And they won't be completely toothless. They'll be given the power to issue subpoenas and, more importantly, make binding disciplinary decisions that can't be overridden by local law enforcement officials. The state's Attorney General can now initiate lawsuits and pattern/practice investigations into the state's law enforcement agencies, something it apparently was unable to do previously.

Again, while many of these reforms are welcome and necessary, the depressing flipside is that all of this wasn't in place prior to this year. Law enforcement agencies in Virginia (and around the nation) have spent decades operating with minimal oversight. The end result is the mess we've seen everywhere. Years of zero accountability haven't given us better cops or better community relationships. It's given us barrels of apples rotting from inside. Things are slowly starting to turn around. Unfortunately, it's taken thousands of deaths, billions of dollars in lawsuit settlements, and several months of uninterrupted protests to make legislators understand they can no longer maintain the status quo.

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Filed Under: 1033 program, criminal justice, no-knock warrants, ralph northam, virginia


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  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 3 Nov 2020 @ 2:26am

    Ummm…

    t's hard to believe it's 2020 and we're just now getting around to doing things like…making it a felony for law enforcement officers to engage in sexual relationships with arrestees and inmates. [Ed: Emphasis Mine]

    Um, considering the power imbalance, wouldn't that qualify as rape?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Nov 2020 @ 3:49am

      Coerced sex is rape, and few things are more coersive than the threat of “sleep with me or I’ll toss you in jail”.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 Nov 2020 @ 5:04am

      Re: Ummm…

      Of course not! Rape is a crime and people wearing a uniform can't commit crimes. Besides, they were probably asking for it or took advantage of the poor overworked officer.

      (/s sadly required nowadays)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard M (profile), 3 Nov 2020 @ 6:22am

      Re: Ummm…

      You would think so but unfortunately no.

      From what I have read it is illegal in most states for officers working jails and prisons to have sex with inmates but not for regular cops.

      However even with jailers and prison guards they rarely get more than a slap on the wrist if they get caught.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Samuel Abram (profile), 3 Nov 2020 @ 8:28am

        Re: Re: Ummm…

        I'm not talking about the legal definition. As Stephen T. Stone said above, coerced sex is rape, and its legality doesn't negate that; it only means that rape is legal in some cases.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 4 Nov 2020 @ 2:47am

          Re: Re: Re: Ummm…

          "...it only means that rape is legal in some cases."

          If you have a badge.
          It reminds me of that case recently where a lobbying group of citizens in Tonawanda tried to have the city board make it legal for cops to ask for or be offered sexual gratuities in the line of duty.

          If this shit happens so often there's actual lobbying to have it legalized then I can only wonder where people would like to draw the line?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 3 Nov 2020 @ 8:16am

      Re: Ummm…

      For anyone but a cop or similarly powerful/rich individual, absolutely, but a badge acts as a very powerful 'Get out of Charges Free' card.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2020 @ 9:07am

      Re: Ummm…

      If the arrestee suggests it, then its a bribe.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2020 @ 7:11am

    New laws to get police forces under control are a good thing but the police aren't required to know the law. What makes anyone think this will actually change anything?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2020 @ 7:51am

      Re:

      Ignorance of the law has never been an excuse when a crime is committed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 3 Nov 2020 @ 8:02am

        It became an excuse…

        …when the Supreme court invented the "Qualified Immunity" escape tactic.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 3 Nov 2020 @ 8:06am

        Re: Re:

        Ignorance of the law not only has been a valid excuse for police but has been a highly desirable state thanks to qualified immunity, however with the citizens able to hand out some real penalties hopefully that will increasingly no longer be the case at least in one state.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bshock, 3 Nov 2020 @ 8:06am

    All of this sounds lovely, as far as it goes. But when the police reveal themselves to be one more armed gang who preys on non-wealthy people (particularly non-wealthy people of color), the idea of giving them new rules to follow doesn't have a lot of teeth. Society already has plenty of rules about not robbing and murdering people, and the police either find loopholes around them or ignore them entirely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2020 @ 8:14am

      Re:

      " the idea of giving them new rules to follow "

      I suggest starting with the enforcement of existing laws. No need foe new rules as the existing ones usually work when applied.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Nov 2020 @ 8:22am

    That really should not have needed to be said...

    Talk about mixed feelings, while these are welcome and well overdue changes the fact that they needed to be spelt out and put into the law paints quite the horrifying picture.

    Still, hopefully that'll help and with one state ignoring the police(because I can't imagine they were at all involved in crafting some real rules) long enough to push some meaningful reform one can only hope that others will follow suit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 3 Nov 2020 @ 11:52am

    Fun isnt it.

    "which aren't in place elsewhere in the county."
    County or country?

    I like a few of the EU systems that dont make being the POLICE a dead end job. They give them education and advancement, and chances to have OTHER jobs.

    I would get your BEST police officers to Create a better agency to TRAIN the new officers.

    Now the fun stuff. Why put people in jails that have problems that dont bother Others. Why not give people a chance, and abit of re-education on drug use, then to pay >$40k per year to have them in jails.
    SOME of this could be fixed with Jobs and Better paying Jobs. And NOT raising the cost of living every year.
    This opinion is an aside. But legalizing SIMPLE drug use, and fixing Drug abuse, would be easier them fighting Drug dealers, placing users in jails(when they need medical attention, and end up in hospitals anyway). YES, they call it Socialism for some odd reason, but isnt giving assistance to HELP each other a social thing?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Nov 2020 @ 11:00am

    no law enforcement agency has ever acquired a "weaponized aircraft," and it seems unlikely the DoD would approve the transfer

    Specifically, "weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles". So drones.

    And if weaponized drones haven't been transfered yet, it's just a matter of time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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