See below for video of yesterday’s Virginia State Senate debate and vote approving Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-SD10)’s SB5035 (“Law-enforcement civilian oversight body; locality authorized to establish.”) As Mel Leonor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported after the vote:
The bill, introduced by Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, would allow localities to create oversight panels made up of civilians that would have subpoena power to investigate police agencies and issue binding disciplinary action against officers or department employees.
Unlike the House version, the Senate measure does not require localities to create the panels. It simply creates a framework within which any that are created would operate.
Passage of the measure followed an impassioned debate of nearly two hours that saw Democrats argue in favor of more accountability for police, while Republicans decried that the measure would give too much power to regular citizens. The measure passed in a 20-15 vote.
Don’t you just love how Republicans – the same folks who so often claim to be about individual liberty, about devolving power to localities and individuals, etc. – dislike the concept of giving power to regular citizens? So hypocritical.
Great point by Sen. Scott Surovell, by the way, about how much misinformation is being spread around about these policing reform bills. On this bill, “There are checks and balances to prevent some [Civilian Review] Board from going wild…besides the fact that the locality can even choose to even do this…there’s nothing prohibiting retired police officers from sitting on here,” etc. Also, Sen. Surovell pointed out that Civilian Review Boards are already in operation in “100 different localities around the country,” including in Virginia Beach (founded in 1991), so this isn’t something “fancy or unusual” or “radical.” Sen. Surovell added:
“I didn’t hear any complaints with law enforcement about what we were doing…at a press conference the other day, they actually applauded the Senate’s treatment of this legislation…From my perspective, if there’s problems that are going on, it’s because there’s been a long-term investment in political…and racial discord in this country and those chickens are coming home to roost right now. There’s a man with orange hair who, every single chance he gets to open his mouth to cause problems, for his own political gain to try to gin up something for a presidential election, is causing a lot of these problems. So I would suggest that if folks are looking for all the unhappiness, of all the anger, of all the problems, look across the river, and look what’s happening over there, and maybe start to condemn some of the things that are coming out from across the river; maybe start to try to do something to heal our state, to heal our country, because right now the bills we are passing, the things we’re doing to allow civilians to have more say in how things are done, are helping to clean up a lot of the mess that’s been created by 400 years of bad policy that are being put on steroids by this person across the river…[This legislation] is going to give us stronger law enforcement and it’s not going to give us all the problems and all the doom and gloom we’re hearing from the other side.”
Now, the Senate bill (by Sen. Ghazala Hashmi) and the House bill (by Del. Charniele Herring) will have to be reconciled. The main difference is that the House bill “requires a locality to establish a law-enforcement civilian oversight body,” while the Senate bill allows localities to do so, if they so choose.