Virginia Committee Approves Sweeping Police Reform Bill as the State Considers Reducing Penalty for Assaulting Police

A banner that reads “Defund The Police” is seen during the “Reclaim the Park” gathering at Emancipation Park on August 12, 2020 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A banner that reads “Defund The Police” is seen during the “Reclaim the Park” gathering at Emancipation Park on August 12, 2020 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Photo: Eze Amos (Getty Images)

Conservatives can be mad at the Black Lives Matter movement—the protests, the civil unrest, the calls to defund the police—all they want, but nobody can deny that the movement is beginning to yield results. A prime example of those results comes to us from the state of Virginia, where a legislative panel approved on Tuesday a sweeping police reform bill that would ban the use of no-knock warrants, limit the use of chokeholds (it’s unclear what those limits are or why the bill wouldn’t give chokeholds the ax altogether, but, hey...baby steps) and make it easier to decertify police officers found guilty of misconduct.

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From the Associated Press:

The omnibus reform bill advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

The bill was heard by the committee on the first day of a special legislative session focused on addressing the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and calls for police and criminal justice reforms following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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According to WSLS 10, lawmakers will also consider proposals to “enhance the ability of courts to expunge criminal records and eliminate jury sentencing except when requested by defendants.”

And then there’s the proposal that is sure to get the “Blue Lives Matter” crowd all in their little blue feelings: Legislators are considering a law that reduces the penalty for assaulting a police officer.

The bill proposed by state Senate Democrats would lower the charge of assault and battery on a police officer from a felony to a misdemeanor.

From WSLS:

Sen. Scott Surovell, the chief sponsor of the assault and battery bill, said it would eliminate the current mandatory minimum sentence of six months in jail and change the law so the charge can only be brought as a felony if an officer has a visible physical injury. Surovell said he is also considering adding provisions requiring that another officer - not the arresting officer - investigate the circumstances and that a prosecutor approve the charge.

Critics of the current law say police overuse the charge, particularly in cases where they fear the person they arrested will claim police brutality.

“It is a charge that tends to arise whenever officers get into a tussle with someone,” Surovell said. Virginia’s legislature made the charge a felony in 1997, at a time when states around the country and Congress were passing “tough on crime” laws. The enhanced penalty for assaulting law enforcement officers also applies to judges, magistrates, corrections officers, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel.

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It’s hard to imagine even the most pro-cop person having an issue with a bill that simply requires an officer to prove he was injured in an intentional assault in order to charge it as a felony. Nah, I’m bullshitting—that’s not at all hard to imagine.

Executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police Dana Schrad believes that the Black Lives Matter movement has encouraged “unprecedented levels” of anger towards police officers and thinks the bill would only make things worse.

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“We should be doing more to protect officers instead of sending a message that assaulting them is not a serious offense,” Schrad said, WSLS reports.

Uh, no. The message that needs to be sent is that citizens shouldn’t be facing felonies for assaulting a cop when all they actually did was brush up against them during a tense exchange.

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Here’s a damn good example provided by WSLS:

Stephen Hill was charged by Alexandria police last year as he sat outside a grocery store drinking wine. Hill, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, said he was intoxicated at the time and struggling with substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hill said he was moving slowly, intending to follow a police command to leave, when an officer grabbed his arm. He had a broken collarbone, but was not wearing his sling. He said he winced in pain and struggled as the officers handcuffed him behind his back.

Hill said he briefly grabbed onto the officer’s duty belt to stabilize himself. The officer then smashed his face against the side of the patrol car, breaking his nose, he said.

“I had no intention whatsoever to do anything bad,” Hill said


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Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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White America taught me to never trust the fuzz and evade them in my supped up 1969 Dodge Charger. #DefundThePolice #PapaDukeApproves #FuckDemRoscos #ACAB