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Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Outlines Policing Reforms for Special Session

photo of delegate lamont bagby standing in front of a blue press conference screen
Delegate Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, currently chairs the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. (Craig Carper/VPM News)

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, which represents Black lawmakers in the state House and Senate, is proposing sweeping reforms to policing and the state’s court systems. 

Members of the Black Caucus plan to introduce more than two dozen bills at a special session later this summer. House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn announced earlier this month that the House will consider police reform at the session, which was originally intended to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. 

The proposals from the Black Caucus members include demands made by Black Lives Matter activists. The legislation will look to increase police accountability by instituting a civilian review board for police misconduct and expanding criteria for decertifying a police officer. Under current law, an officer can only lose their certification for committing a felony or certain misdemeanors. Another big priority is preventing excessive use of force by banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

“For decades, members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus have been working to break down systems of oppression, including working to reframe the ways that State government approaches public safety,” the group said in a press release Wednesday. “The pressure created by the protests has generated a larger public shift and facilitated avenues for such changes to be made in new and creative ways.”

Members of the Black Caucus also plan to address racism more broadly through several policies targeting the court system. They’ll introduce legislation to expand hate crimes to include false 9-1-1 calls based on race, and eliminate cash bail.

A full list of their policy priorities for the upcoming special session are below:

“This Special Session the VLBC plans to introduce legislation to:

Address & Combat Racism Directly by:

  • - Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis in the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • - Uncovering Racial Disparities in all Areas of Policy & Creating Solutions to Bridge the Gaps
  • - Expanding Hate Crimes to Include False 911 Calls Based on Race
  • - Requiring Courts to Publish Racial and Other Demographic Data of all Low-level Offenses

Hold Police Accountable, Strengthen Regulation, & Improve Transparency by: 

  • - Creating a Civilian Review Board with Subpoena Power 
  • - Ending Qualified Immunity & Making Changes to Sovereign Immunity
  • - Establishing a Statewide Officer Database 
  • - Standardizing and Reforming Police Administration, Training, and Accountability
  • - Expanding Police Decertification Criteria
  • - Expanding the Use of Body Cams
  • - Requiring Independent Investigations for All Police-Involved Shootings/Deaths 

Prevent Law Enforcement Excessive Use of Force by:

  • -Defining and Restricting Excessive Use of Force 
  • -Banning the Use of Chokeholds
  • -Restricting the Use of Tear Gas and Militarization Tactics and Weapons Against Civilians
  • -Passing “Breonna’s Law” to End No-Knock Warrants

Replace Law Enforcement’s Role in Certain Areas with Trained Specialists by:

  • - Implementing the “Marcus Alert” to Require Behavioral/Mental Health Professionals to respond to those thought to be having Mental Health Crises
  • - DIVESTING from Large Law Enforcement Budgets & INVESTING More in Communities
  • - Reducing SRO Presence in Schools & Replacing them with Mental Health Professionals

Continue the Fight for Criminal Justice Reform by:

  • - Implementing Automatic Expungement
  • - Reinstituting Parole
  • - Passing Cash Bail Reform
  • -Increasing Good Behavior Sentence Credits
  • -Legalizing Marijuana 

Pass COVID-19 Relief & Protections by:

  • - Expanding Protections Related to Housing & Evictions
  • - Providing Rent and Mortgage Relief
  • - Classifying Frontline Workers as Essential Workers 
  • - Requiring Hazard Pay and PPE for Essential Workers
  • - Guaranteeing Paid Sick Leave”