Virginia Democrats unveil wide-ranging police reform bill

Less than two weeks before Virginia lawmakers gather for a special legislative session, Democrats have released a measure that would reshape law enforcement structure and practices throughout the Commonwealth.

State Sens. Mamie E. Locke, who represents the Hampton area, and Scott Surovell, who represents the Mount Vernon area, went through the bill during a virtual news conference Thursday.

Some of the major components include a ban on “no-knock” warrants, in which members of law enforcement enter a home unannounced.

The bill also calls for warrants to be executed during the daytime only, unless law enforcement secures pre-approval from a judge, who will determine if there’s just cause for a nighttime warrant.

The sweeping measures also requires better training for de-escalation procedures and widening the offenses that could lead to an officer’s decertification.

“As soon as George Floyd happened, our caucus jumped into action,” Surovell said.

Currently, an officer can only be decertified in Virginia if he or she is convicted of a crime or tests positive for drugs, Surovell said.

Surovell and his Democratic colleagues are calling for a broader list of violations.

“Things like, you can’t use a chokehold,” said Surovell. “Things like you can’t shoot into a moving motor vehicle. Things like you can’t use deadly force unless it’s your last resort.”

If the officer’s conduct is being taken up by the judicial system, the bill requires law enforcement leaders and agencies to release any records of wrongful arrests or other past complaints against that particular officer to the commonwealth’s attorney.

The measure also outlaws sex between an officer and a person in his or her custody.

“It’s not about being anti-police,” said Locke. “It’s not about defunding the police, and it’s not about anti-law enforcement.”

WTOP contacted Virginia Senate Republican Leader Thomas Norment, Virginia GOP Caucus Chairman Ryan McDougle and the Virginia State Police Association for comment.

Virginia’s General Assembly is set to convene for a special session Aug. 18.

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