Police reforms passed in Virginia after the 2020 murder of George Floyd have led to a huge increase in the number of police officers being decertified, meaning they can no longer work in law enforcement anywhere in the state.
According to a report from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, 68 sheriff, police or jail officers have been decertified in the commonwealth since March 1, 2021. That compares to 82 decertified officers in the more than 20 years between 1999 and 2020.
In Northern Virginia, about a dozen officers working have lost their certifications since the new reforms were enacted.
Before the reforms, officers could only be decertified if they were convicted of certain crimes, failed drug tests or didn’t complete training. Now other serious misconduct including lying during internal investigations can lead to decertification.
Of the 68 officers who were decertified, around two dozen lost certification because they made “untruthful statements” during internal affairs investigations.
Of the 13 officers in northern Virginia who have been decertified, seven of them lied during internal investigations, according to the new report, including three officers who worked for the Metro Transit Police Department.
Two officers from the Arlington County Police Department; one officer from the Falls Church Police Department; and one deputy from the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office were decertified for untruthful claims during internal investigations, according to the report.
Others were decertified for wrongdoing such as sexual harassment of co-workers and falsifying documents.
A former Fairfax County police officer was decertified in January this year after he was convicted in December of three charges of indecent liberties with a minor. John Grimes engaged in sexual misconduct with a 16-year-old in the Fairfax County Police Public Safety Cadet Program.
India Middleton, a court security officer with Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, was indicted in Georgia on the charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The allegations stem from a ring that schemed money from PPP loans for fake businesses. Middleton was indicted in March 2021 and was decertified in December.
Dana Schrad, the executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, told the Associated Press police chiefs generally supported the expansion of the law but want to ensure that officers are aware of what behaviors might lead to decertification and that the process is fair.
Schrad said the number of officers decertified since the new law went into effect is not surprising.
“It’s not that we’re seeing a ton more bad behavior; it’s just that we’ve really raised the bar on our expectations of officers and we’re holding them to a much higher standard.” Schrad told the AP.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.