Law Enforcement Reform Bills Advance in Richmond

During the special session of the Virginia State Legislature now underway, a bill to end “qualified immunity” for police narrowly passed in the House Tuesday as Falls Church’s Kaye Kory and Fairfax’s Ibraheem Samirah changed their votes to reverse a narrow defeat last week.

It now faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. Another bill aimed at limiting police wrongdoing requiring police to report wrongdoing of fellow officers passed the House last Friday.

Other law enforcement-related legislation advancing in Richmond include measures mandating citizen review panels for local law enforcement, diversifying the Department of Criminal Justice Services’ Committee on Training, strengthening prosecutorial ability to dismiss charges, prohibiting no-knock warrants, banning the use of chokeholds by law enforcement, eliminating certain pretextual police stops (like the smell of marijuana, or a hanging air freshener), prohibiting acquisition and use of certain weapons, including using rubber bullets or tear gas for crowd control, banning sexual relations between officers and arrestees, expanding the definition of hate crimes to include false 911 calls made on the basis of race or ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation, standardizing enhancing training for all Virginia police academies, the assessments and vetting required before hiring law enforcement officers to make sure bad cops don’t get rehired elsewhere.

Also advancing is legislation that provides automatic expungement to help persons previously incarcerated gain employment after they’ve served their time and shown good behavior, and higher earned sentence credits for certain prisoners’ good behavior if they show efforts to reform themselves and have not committed serious crimes.