Virginia Senate passes sweeping police reform package, votes down qualified immunity roll back

Virginia Senate passes sweeping police reform package, votes down qualified immunity roll back
The Virginia Senate passed a sweeping police reform package on Thursday during a special session. (Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia Senate passed a sweeping police reform package on Thursday but did not pass a bill that would roll back qualified immunity for the police during a special session.

The Senate passed more than a dozen reforms with a vote along party lines that was 21-19. They included legislation to prohibit the use of chokeholds and no-knock search warrants, and to make it easier to decertify police officers for misconduct.

The bills passed included:

  • Prohibit no-knock warrants
  • Ban sex with individuals arrested by law enforcement
  • Prohibit hiring of officers fired or resigned during the use of force investigations
  • Expands decertification procedure for law enforcement officers
  • Ban chokeholds and strangleholds
  • Require attempts at de-escalation prior to use of force
  • Require warnings before shots fired
  • Require law enforcement to exhaust all other means prior to using deadly force
  • Create a duty to intervene by fellow law enforcement officers
  • Prohibit shooting at moving motor vehicles
  • Require departments to create use of force continuum
  • Require comprehensive reporting by all law enforcement agencies including use of force data
  • Requires de-escalation training and standardizes minimum training
  • Eliminate increased law enforcement funding if the agency fails to obtain accreditation

“By making these changes to the Code of Virginia, by clarifying what is legal and what is not legal, we are taking qualified immunity out of the mix. Furthermore, this bill is going to make law enforcement safer and our police departments stronger. It’s going to go a long way towards professionalizing our police forces that are not accredited right now. That’s why law enforcement agencies support this bill. I am proud that we are taking this historical moment to effect some real, meaningful change,” said Sen. Scott Surovell.

According to Virginia Mercury reporter Ned Oliver, the vote for qualified immunity was 12-3 with Black lawmakers unsuccessfully pressing the mostly white committee to support the bill.

“It doesn’t matter how much you’ve accomplished in your lifetime. If you look like me, most of us are afraid of our police officers in our community,” said Sen. Louise Lucas.

The judiciary committee said they were concerned it would go beyond allegations of brutality and accessive force and would allow for too many petty lawsuits to move forward, the Virginia Mercury reports.

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