Virginia Senate Dems unveil criminal justice reform proposals ahead of special session

Virginia Senate Democrats released a series of proposals aimed at addressing law enforcement and criminal justice reform amid the continued widespread protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus Justice Reform and Racial Equity package comes on the heels of an Aug. 18 special session for the General Assembly.

A large portion of the legislation tackles policing across the commonwealth and includes a host of ideas proposed by Caucus Chair Mamie E. Locke, D-Hampton.

They include bans on no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and sex between officers and those under arrest.

Other proposals require police to attempt to de-escalate encounters with citizens before use of force, issuing warnings before shots are fired and forbid law enforcement from firing at moving vehicles.

“Our package is more focused on the entire system and not just policing,” said Caucus Vice Chair Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, during a virtual press conference Friday afternoon.

“We have a critical opportunity and an historic opportunity to correct a lot of the historical wrongs that have been going on in this state for hundreds of years that’s been presented to us and handed to us right now,” Surovell said.

Some of the other measures cover criminal law reform, giving prosecutors more flexibility, addresses racial profiling and allows for the creation of citizen review boards to discipline officers.

WTOP has reached out to the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus leadership for comment.

The Virginia General Assembly plans to address several other matters unrelated to police and criminal justice reform, such as the state budget and providing more support to students workers and the health care system in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s also a proposal to make Juneteenth an official holiday in the commonwealth.

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