(The Center Square) – Police advocacy groups have been supportive of some policing reform efforts during the ongoing special session in the Virginia Legislature, but the more controversial proposals are being condemned by the groups.
“The vast majority of Virginia police officers are dedicated public servants who want to serve and protect their communities,” Dana Schrad, the executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said in a statement. “Tragically, we expect to see many officers leave policing and very few new applicants. The General Assembly won't have to defund our agencies if our people walk away from public service.”
The General Assembly convened a special session last month to address policing measures, among other things. The Virginia Senate and House have passed a series of bills designed to hold police accountable, stop biased policing and prevent unjust killings.
Certain reforms did not bring much controversy, such as broader decertification standards and bills to enhance training requirements. Police advocacy groups, however, believe some of the others will make their jobs more difficult.
Some of the more controversial bills include an effort to defelonize assault on police and banning no-knock search warrants, including a requirement that a judge must approve nighttime or late morning raids. Other bills include a partial defunding of police if the department is engaged in biased policing and limiting a police department’s ability to acquire military-style weapons.
“It has been extremely disappointing to see most of these legislative proposals developed with little or no input from Virginia law enforcement,” Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard said in a statement. “We provided a [detailed] document of proposals to the Governor and General Assembly in June and have reached out to legislators throughout this special session. Only a handful of legislators really worked with us, but an overwhelming number had little interest in hearing our concerns.”
During a news conference this week, Wayne Huggins, the executive director of the Virginia State Police Association, said he never has seen police morale lower than it is now.
Huggins said the police associations support removing bad cops, but these bills will do the opposite, making it difficult to recruit quality officers. He said the state will see an increase in crime, highway fatalities, injuries and property damage if all these bills go through.
Democrats said the legislation will bring about greater equality in policing and hold bad police accountable.