FILE - Del. Charniele Herring

Virginia House Majority Leader Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria

(The Center Square) – Bills that would establish higher training standards for Virginia police and require localities to establish civilian review boards advanced Tuesday through their first committee in the House.

A bill that would force local governments to establish civilian review boards for police departments by July 1, 2021, advanced through the House Public Safety Committee with support from Democrats and opposition from Republicans. House Bill 5055 is sponsored by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria.

Civilian review boards under this legislation would provide recommendations to police departments regarding gross misconduct, excessive force and criminal offenses by law enforcement. Police departments would be required to provide the review board with relevant records and documents. Localities would be allowed to grant the boards the authority to conduct hearings and have subpoena power.

One bill that received unanimous support Tuesday from both parties in the committee would compel the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services to develop minimum training standards for police departments. House Bill 5109 is sponsored by Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington.

The standards would have to include training on biased policing and systemic racism. They also would include training on de-escalation tactics and the proper use of force, as well as training on how to work with individuals with disabilities, mental health needs and substance abuse problems.

Some of the mental health reforms, however, were opposed by Republican lawmakers. House Bill 5043, sponsored by Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, would require localities to establish mental health teams to respond to crises that involve individuals with mental illness or substance abuse problems. Such teams would be armed with only nonlethal weapons and shall apply only nonlethal force. Although police would come for backup if the situation became dangerous, Republicans expressed concern the mental health teams may be unable to deal with immediate danger.

Another bill that passed with Democratic support would prohibit police departments from purchasing military property unless a waiver is granted by the Department of Criminal Justice Services. The prohibition would include standard issue military rifles, grenades, weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles and aircrafts configured for combat.

The Virginia Senate also is considering a series of similar bills.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.