Gov. Ralph Northam Is Finalizing His Police Reform Agenda. Black Lawmakers Already Have One.
Gov. Ralph Northam is still finalizing what he thinks police reform in Virginia should look like.
Lawmakers will go back to Richmond sometime in August, the governor has said. It’s a special legislative session primarily to adjust the state budget, but in the wake of protests around the state against police brutality, Northam has said he expects the topic to come up.
He already has some ideas, including creating more diverse police forces, having others, like mental health practitioners, respond to emergencies, expanding the use of body cameras and more de-escalation techniques to reduce how much force an officer uses.
“What I’m in the process of doing right now is talking with community leaders, talking with individuals that represent the police departments, talking with our legislators. And so we're putting together our agenda now,” Northam said at an event in Virginia Beach.
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus already has a list of suggestions for the special session that addresses police brutality and racism.
The list includes declaring racism a public health crisis (Cleveland, Ohio recently passed that kind of declaration), expanding the list of six criminal charges that can lead to people losing their ability to be an officer, banning chokeholds and requiring that every officer-involved fatality is investigated independently.
Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, considers the independent investigations and banning chokeholds most important.
“We don’t want to paint everybody with the same brush. All police officers are not bad. All Black people are not criminals. But you’ve got a bunch of bad apples in that barrel, and we need to weed them out,” she said.
Campaign Zero is a group of activists that wants to end police brutality in the United States. The group did an analysis of use-of-force policies of the country’s 100 largest cities. According to that analysis, Virginia Beach already bans chokeholds. Norfolk doesn’t.
Other Hampton Roads cities were not included in the analysis.