Officers concerned as police reform measures advance in Virginia General Assembly

‘Who in Virginia right now would want to be a police officer?’

In the third week of the Special Session, lawmakers are still discussing police reform.

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – As the Virginia General Assembly’s Special Session continues, some controversial police reform measures are moving forward.

“I don’t want to say it’s all bad but there is lots and lots of bad stuff out there,” said Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall, who also serves as president of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP).

The VACP is especially concerned about two measures making their way through the General Assembly.

A bill dropping the charge for assaulting a law enforcement officer from a felony to a misdemeanor cleared the Senate last week. The legislation has now been modified to only allow the lesser penalty if the officer was not hurt.

“Any mitigation of accountability for that crime is a bad idea and potentially endangers our officers,” Hall said.

An end to qualified immunity failed Monday, but the House brought it back to life Tuesday.

“Frankly, it’s ridiculous,” Hall said.

The bill would make it easier to sue officers for alleged civil rights violations.

“It’s a terrible piece of legislation. It would do nothing to promote public safety, protect victims. All it does is open up this huge area of liability which isn’t necessary,” Hall said.

Hall also has concerns about some use of force limitations, while he supports things like expanding officer decertification and improving response to mental health calls.

Hall’s worries go beyond just the bills though.

“Who in Virginia right now would want to be a police officer? Nobody can give me an answer to that question and frankly, I have a hard time answering it myself and that presents a significant problem for safety in our communities,” Hall said.

It’s now week three of the Special Session with no end in sight.

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