Virginia lawmakers meet for final police reform talks before special session starts

Virginia lawmakers meet for final police reform talks before special session starts

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - After three rounds of hearings over as many weeks, Virginia state lawmakers are crafting legislation to address police and criminal justice reform.

“When it comes to looking at Blacks and Latinos, they are oftentimes using their skin tone as a metric by which to make these decisions,” said Rashawn Ray, The Brookings Institution.

Thursday, a Virginia House of Delegates committee held a virtual meeting on a variety of topics including no-knock warrants and civilian review boards. At the top of the list was police immunity in legal cases.

“How else would we hold bad actors, law enforcement agencies and the localities or agencies they work for accountable if we don’t change our immunity laws,” said Del. Jeff Bourne (D) 71st District.

The head of the Virginia State Police Association says there’s general consensus on a few items including stronger decertification procedures to make sure a bad officer isn’t hired somewhere else, banning the use of chokeholds and body-worn cameras.

But the group does oppose any “warn first” delay while using force and tinkering with qualified immunity.

“We’re not perfect,” said Wayne Huggins, Virginia State Police Association. “We hire human beings and none of us are perfect. Nonetheless, we are striving each and every day for perfection.”

A Republican lawmaker called out one witness for using “dated data” when a rep from The Brookings Institution said minorities are 3.5 times more likely to be killed by police while not attacking with weapons.

“If you are looking at 2018 FBI statistics, things are a little different than in some of your slides,” Del. Ronnie Campbell, R 24th District.

“Things haven’t changed that drastically,” replied Ray.

Reform won’t be the only topic for the Aug. 18 special session. The budget will also come into play due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

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