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Virginia Democrats Discuss Police Reform During Virtual State Convention

Virginia Democrats hold state convention virtually
Virginia Democrats held the state convention virtually. On Friday, elected officials participated in a panel discussion on criminal justice reform. 

Virginia Democrats held their state convention over the weekend and for the first time they met virtually because of coronavirus concerns. After opening remarks from Gov. Ralph Northam, then panels on how to campaign online, Democrats turned to the issue of criminal justice reform on Friday. 

Congressman Bobby Scott, who represents Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, called for the demilitarization of local police.

“If a situation presents where you need a tank, you call in the national guard. You don’t have the local police try to drive tanks up and down the street,” Scott said.

A bill that’s currently in Congress, called the Justice in Policing Act, would limit police access to military-grade equipment, and also ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants. 

Attorney General Mark Herring voiced support for this bill, which would increase the role of states’ attorneys general in investigating police brutality and misconduct.

“It’s important to have [investigations] outside of the department itself, because people need to know that it’s not the police investigating their own members or people who work closely together every day,” Herring said.

Herring called on his fellow Democrats to take into consideration the demands of Virginians who have been protesting for weeks.

“They are making their voices heard,” he said. “We want to keep them engaged and we need them to stay engaged, and one of the ways we can do that is by taking bold action.”

The elected officials on the panel -- which also included Henrico County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor, and state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-Prince William) and House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) -- stressed voting as the most effective means to achieve criminal justice reform.

“If you want real systemic criminal justice reform, if you want real police reform, if you want real funding into our diversion programs and into mental health in a real systemic way, and actually dismantling our segregated school systems here in Virginia… We have to register to vote,” Carroll Foy, who is also running for governor, said.

During the weekend long event, the Democratic party selected delegates and committee members to take part in the nation convention later this summer.

Virginia Democrats also heard remarks from former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, and discussed issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and voting rights.