See below for video from the first Virginia House of Delegates public hearing on police and criminal justice reform leading up to the special sessoin of the General Assembly in August. As the press release from the Virginia House Democrats (see below) says, “Each subsequent hearing will cover an additional area of police and criminal justice reform. These hearings will be chaired by House Courts of Justice Chair Charniele Herring and House Public Safety Chair Patrick Hope.”
Today’s hearing started with introductions by Delegates Hope and Herring. Del. Hope emphasized that, since the murder of George Floyd, it has become clear that “the General Assembly must take decisive, but appropriate and meaningful action to address racial inequalities in our criminal justice system…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.”
Del. Herring stressed that “it cannot be ignored that for many years, there has been a fear of black and brown people when it comes to our police…I do not mean to suggest that all police officers are bad actors; to the contrary, I believe many in our police departments enter the profession to serve our community…however…taking no action would not be a service to Virginia…[we must] formulate evidence-based policies and act…It is not longer acceptable to introduce and pass something that results in inequity and leaves people behind. It is time for us all to open our minds and ears to all sides of the debate and pass laws that are evidence-based and reach a more equitable result.”
Check out the video, below, including testimony by Col. Gary Settle of the Virginia State Police, by Virginia Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director John Jones, testimony by Dr. Lindsay Cohn of the Naval War College on “Militarized Policing,” testimony from Chief L.D. Boone of the Norfolk Police Department, testimony by Ashna Khanna and Eden Heilman of the Virginia ACLU, testimony from numerous others, and questions by members of the committee. Very interesting and important stuff.
P.S. It will be very interesting to see whether the State Senate and House of Delegates can come together on a meaningful package of police reforms and criminal justice reform. From what I hear, they are not necessarily all on the same page at this point, and also have different approaches to building consensus. I’m hopeful that, in the end, the legislative “sausage” will end up getting made, even if the process to get there won’t be pretty at all times.