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Republican Proposal to Ban Police Unions in Virginia Fails

Man speaking with microphone
Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County) authored an amendment to a comprehensive police reform bill that would have prevented police departments from unionizing. (Photo: VPM)

A Republican Senator tried to get rid of police unions in Virginia today in a proposed amendment to a comprehensive police reform bill that was up for debate.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), would establish statewide professional standards of conduct, make it easier to decertify bad cops, and require de-escalation training among other provisions. 

Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County) proposed an amendment to exclude law enforcement from unionizing. Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill into law this spring that allows public employees to collectively bargain. That law goes into effect next May.

Stanley said police unions allow bad cops to stay on the street.

“What was the source of the killing of George Floyd? What was one of the contributing factors? It was a bad cop,” Stanley said. “A bad cop that had been on the street for too many years, protected by his police union.”

The officer involved in the killing of George Floyd had 15 excessive force complaints on his record.

Stanley recited numerous studies that showed a correlation between police unions and violence against citizens, including a 2019 University of Chicago study that linked extending collective bargaining rights to Florida sheriff’s deputies to a 40% statewide increase in misconduct.

“We can have unions,” Stanley said. “We can have unions at the government level. At the local level. But they don’t belong in law enforcement.”

Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) said the amendment was unnecessary.

“In Senator Locke’s bill right now are provisions that will make sure that cops that are bad, that do bad things, that that record follows them and they’re not rehired.”

Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) argued that law enforcement in Virginia are paid too little and could use the support.   

“These unions, I think, would go a long way towards helping them gain the leverage they need to get a fair wage,” Surovell said.

Stanley’s proposed amendment was voted down on a 19-20 vote. The original bill passed the full Senate and is headed to the House for a vote.