Law enforcement officials could get more power after lawmakers pass curfew changes in bill

Also headed to the governor's desk, a bill giving police chiefs the power to issue a 24-hour curfew during times of unrest.
Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 7:46 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Headed to the Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk is Senate Bill 1455 giving police chiefs the power to issue a 24-hour curfew during times of unrest.

The last time Richmond had a curfew was during the protests and riots that followed George Floyd’s death. After the violence that broke out in Richmond in the summer of 2020, lawmakers want to give law enforcement more power to keep the community safe during times of unrest.

“So a curfew does help to basically bring some peace back to the community,” Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Dana Schrad said.

Soon police chiefs and sheriffs could have the ability to declare a curfew during times of civil unrest.

”I think it is written in such a way that it protects First Amendment rights to assemble and to have public discourse, but it also protects public safety interests and the community safety interest by allowing curfews to be able to be set so that you can have some natural end to some of these events,” Schrad said.

In cities, police chiefs would have to consult the mayor or city manager before implementing a curfew.

The maximum time a curfew could last is 24 hours. After that, a curfew could not be “extended” without government approval or a court order.

Richmond City Councilman Andreas Addison believes the bill could help when it comes to safety, but he has other concerns.

“I want to see to make sure that we’re protecting, you know, the preservation of freedom of speech, right to assemble - things that make our country, you know, what it is as a democracy, that can stay intact,” Addison said.

Addison also questions whether Richmond and other Virginia cities have the resources to enforce a curfew.

”We are limited with our resources, even with the sheriff’s office and police department for the city of Richmond. Do we even have enough to enforce our own curfew on our own because usually that requires a state of emergency or some other coordinated efforts to make sure that it’s done properly,” Addison said.

Curfew violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and a penalty of up to a year in jail if convicted.