The ongoing racial reckoning in the U.S. has had Democratic legislators in Virginia looking to pass police reform policies in recent months. On Tuesday, the state’s House of Delegates approved a two-year budgetary plan that includes funding for a multitude of criminal justice and police reform initiatives aimed at addressing police misconduct and racial injustice.
From the Associated Press:
The House spending plan allocates $28.4 million to pay for the package of reforms, which includes legislation to make it easier to decertify officers who commit misconduct and gives the state attorney general the authority to investigate law enforcement agencies for patterns of unconstitutional practices, including the use of excessive force. The reform package also includes legislation to establish an alert system to dispatch mental health providers along with police to help stabilize people in crisis situations.
Many people would agree that these are common-sense policies that are so reasonable it’s almost surprising they aren’t already law. To others, this is bare minimum work that merely scratches the surface of what needs to be done to combat unjust practices in policing. And then there are those who view any effort to implement change relating to policing as an attack on cops everywhere. Unfortunately, some of those people are House Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly.
More from AP:
Republican Del. Kirk Cox said he views the $28 million expenditure for criminal justice reforms as “anti-law enforcement” and said many officers have become demoralized since widespread protests began in May following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“I think we should not treat law enforcement in this manner,” Cox said.
House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert criticized Democrats for refusing to consider Republican-proposed budget amendments, including one aimed at encouraging the professionalization of local law enforcement agencies.
“House Democrats took a series of votes that make it absolutely clear that they’re on the side of criminals, not victims and law enforcement,” Gilbert said in a statement.
Conservatives really seem to live in a world where cops are near perfect and police misconduct is such a rarity it’s never worth addressing out loud. Imagine thinking that minimal efforts to curtail the use of excessive force by police officers automatically puts you on the side of the criminal. One can only wonder what happened to all that “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about” energy that always gets applied to civilian behavior.
Anyway, the House budget is far from a done deal. The spending plan still has to be sent to the Senate—which, like the House, has a slight Democratic majority—and will likely not see final approval for a few more weeks due to differences between the House plan and the budgetary plan advanced by the Senate out of committee last week, according to AP.
The House plan would also allocate funds to help local school systems navigate the pandemic and help people who have fallen behind on rent and utility payments due to the health crisis.