Virginia lawmakers press VSP Superintendent on policy reform

Updated: Jul. 22, 2020 at 3:22 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The head of the Virginia State Police went before state lawmakers as they kick off a series of police reform meetings leading into a special session of the Virginia General Assembly.

Lawmakers pressed those with badges about change.

“What needs to change,” said State Del. Jeff Bourne, (D) 71st District. “Because clearly a cookie-cutter sort of reasonably necessary type standard policy descriptions and guidance aren’t working because we’re still continuing to see to many incidents of excessive force.”

Wednesday, State Police Superintendent Col. Gary Settle took the spotlight. He addressed a recently surfaced video from a 2019 traffic stop in Fairfax County.

“Yes, I’ve seen the video as well,” said Col. Settle. “I watched it and certainly it was inappropriate and again caused me great concern.”

Settle’s first public comments about police reform came during a Virginia House of Delegates’ virtual joint committee meeting. This one was about policies, procedures and response ahead of a General Assembly special session in August.

"There have been inequities in our system for hundreds of years," said State Del. Charniele Herring, (D) 46th District. "This is where that ends."

During the hours-long meeting, lawmakers pressed for transparency, evidence-based policy and for a re-imagining of the criminal justice system.

Law enforcement heads maintained additional de-escalation training is needed and consistent policy across the state to decertify an officer and make sure they don’t get hired elsewhere.

"With everything being discussed, people are talking about defunding and I think we've already been defunded," said John Jones, Virginia Sheriffs' Association.

Meanwhile, Col. Settle said he can outfit his agency with body-worn cameras for between $23 million and $46 million, depending on contract terms.

“In a lot of cases when you have video and we have a complaint, we’ll discover other violations of standards of conduct and we’ll handle that appropriately,” said Col. Settle.

A hearing on July 29 will focus on training and mandatory minimums. Another on Aug. 6 will address no-knock warrants, civilian review boards and use of force.

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