Del. Levine’s proposal required officers to report co-workers who committed “significant wrongdoing”
RICHMOND-For two straight years, Del. Mark Levine has tried to push through a “Good Apples” police reform bill. And each time, the result is the same, with the bill failing to get out of committee. On Monday, the Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee shot down Levine’s latest attempt.
The proposal consists of three main points. First, if an officer sees an injury happen, they have to offer help. That is, as long as “circumstances permit.”
Second, if an officer sees a co-worker commit “significant wrongdoing”, they have to report that to their superior officer. If not, they could face disciplinary action.
“This part is really the heart of the bill,” Levine told the committee. “The idea is that public servants serve the public first. If they see another officer commit criminal misconduct or engage in bias, the commanding officer would like to know.”
Third, the bill would have expanded the definition of bias-based profiling, to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Bill Finds Support
Multiple people tried to convince the committee to push the bill to the full Virginia Senate. Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani, James City County Commonwealth’s Attorney Nate Greene and Alexandria City Police Chief Michael Brown all spoke on behalf of HB 1948. Brown pointed out that his department already uses a similar concept and had no issues with it.
Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, told the committee that third section of the bill would offer more protection to some of the state’s more vulnerable citizens.
“We know that LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color, are more likely to be victimized by discriminatory police practices,” Lamneck said. “This bill broadens the definition of biased-based profiling.”
Committee members had concerns, however. Some wondered if a plan like this was enforceable. If officers violated the agreement, then what?
“It is up to the police agency to render the appropriate discipline, whether severe or minor,” Levine said. “The point of it is if it’s a statewide requirement, it will be in training. Police officers will learn when they’re trained they are required to report it. All law enforcement in Virginia will know they have to report it.”
That wasn’t enough to assure a majority of committee members, who voted against the bill 9-6.
Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].