Proposed group would examine a wide variety of techniques and training programs currently used by police in the commonwealth.
RICHMOND-Do police departments in Virginia need to rethink their policies and procedures? That’s the question behind a bill the Virginia Senate approved on Thursday. SB5003 would set up a commission to look at policing techniques and evaluate if changes are needed. Republican Richard Stuart, the bill’s sponsor, said he filled the proposal based on what he’s seen in 30 years as a lawyer.
“It establishes a bi-partisan commission, which specifically would look at the policing techniques we use in Virginia in regards to the civil rights that citizens enjoy or maybe should enjoy,” said the King George County senator. “I’ve practiced law for 30 years in this commonwealth and during that 30 years, I’ve seen inequities in our system.”
Stuart told the Senate on Thursday those inequities come from a number of places. Some are due to race, others because of poverty or “the fact we’ve just given our civil liberties away,” he said.
As a result, Stuart proposed launching a Commission on Civil Rights and Policing. The 22-member committee would be assigned a specific task, to “study and report on operations, practices and duties of state and local law-enforcement agencies.” That includes checking that each department follows both the Virginia and U.S. constitutions by providing citizens with all required rights. The commission would also look at standard restraint techniques and uses for each department, as well as how officers are trained to de-escalate situations.
“I still believe we have the best system in the world, but I also believe we can make it better,” Stuart said.
Breaking Down the Body Cameras
In addition to the other assignments, the commission would be assigned to study and report on body camera use, as well as for-profit policing methods. They would examine the process for reporting misconduct at multiple departments and review if employment contracts stopped officers from being punished. Once that research is finished, the group would also hold public hearings across the commonwealth to get different communities to weigh in.
“It is not designed to overlap or intrude on the crime commission,” Stuart said. “It’s a completely different animal. I think it’s incumbent on all of us to try to make our justice system fair for every citizen. I think this is a step in that direction.”
The bill passed 29-7 in the Senate and now goes to the Virginia Senate for debate.