Virginia lawmakers press law enforcement officials on police reform, accountability

‘You cannot be a police officer if you do not have your integrity’

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Ahead of a special Virginia General Assembly session in August on police reform, the first of three joint House committee meetings were held Wednesday.

During the Joint Meeting of Courts of Justice and Public Safety Committees on Wednesday morning, lawmakers pushed for transparency and accountability when it comes to citizen complaints and misconduct investigations.

“What are you doing differently now post-George Floyd? What are you doing differently?” asked Del. Don Scott Jr., a Democrat from Portsmouth.

“Make no mistake; at the conclusion of this process we will take action. The sense of urgency is growing and we cannot ignore these issues any longer,” said Del. Patrick Hope, a Democrat from Arlington County.

Law enforcement talked about the importance of accreditation, training and body-worn cameras. They also would like laws to make it easier to de-certify officers for things other than just felony or misdemeanor charges, failing a drug test or not completing required training.

“They could be terminated from one police department and move to another one. You know, essentially jump around a little bit and, you know, continue when maybe that’s not in the best interest of the public,” said Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall.

Hall, who is also the president of the Virginia Association Of Chiefs Of Police, said that good policing comes down to one thing: “You cannot be a police officer if you do not have your integrity,” said Hall.

The association submitted its own recommendations to the General Assembly last month raising some of the same issues, plus citing the need for stricter background checks and hiring standards and funding for mental health training.

As lawmakers put lead law enforcement officials in the hot seat looking to make change, Hall said that those changes have to be specific and actionable.

“I think we have to be very careful in trying to understand what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Hall.

The next joint committee is hearing is set for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 29.

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