The death of George Floyd rocked the nation. It was the final ingredient in a boiling, already-too-full-stew that finally spilled over. In May of last year, Floyd was killed when a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. The growing frustrations over police brutality caused people to demand change. Civil unrest broke out across the country, across the world. Demands of police reform and “defund the police” have become major talking points for protesters and pundits.
Virginia has responded. Major reforms have spread across the entire state’s law enforcement system. Every area of law will be affected by this change. The new laws are far-reaching, and they look to be clear moves in the direction protesters want.
In part one of this two-part series, we will be looking at some key changes that will affect Virginian police. These are the changes that will be effective on March 1st. There are other changes coming that will go into effect in July.
Banning No-Knock Search Warrants
Police can no longer burst into a home, even with a warrant. Virginia police must now be visibly recognizable – by uniform or some other clear means – at the scene. They must knock and announce their presence and their intent. The noise they make must be reasonably loud enough to be heard by inhabitants.
This has been dubbed “Breonna’s Law,” in honor of Breonna Taylor. In March of 2020, Kentucky police invaded Taylor’s home with a no-knock warrant, and shot her dead while she slept. Naming this law after her is Virginia’s clear attempt to communicate its intentions. The state wants to keep a tragedy like this out of its borders.
Statewide Code of Conduct Expectations
Bad cops swapping departments has become a common problem in Virginia. Up to now, it’s been very easy for a police officer under investigation to resign from their current position and pick up a job in another department.
The code of conduct will now stretch statewide, not just from department to department. This means that an officer who is found guilty of criminal behavior can be completely decertified across the state.
Mandatory Training for Bias, De-Escalation, and Crisis Intervention
In an effort to decrease police misconduct and abuses of power, new training will be implemented. One such training will target implicit biases toward citizens with mental illnesses, mental deficiencies, and substance abuse disorders. Police will be taught de-escalation techniques to avoid making a bad situation worse. Also included are trainings regarding systemic racism and cultural diversity.
This law applies to new recruits and police who need to be recertified. Over time, this means that all authorities in the state will have encountered this training.
The training board itself is affected by this law. The Criminal Justice Services Board and its Committee on Training must now include members with experience in certain areas. It must include members of a social justice organization; representatives of minority interests; mental health service professionals; and a member of the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission. The Committee on Training will also have the power to appoint committees to review the training curriculum.
Limits on Military-Level Equipment
“Demilitarize the police” has been a familiar cry among protesters for a long time now. Virginia has finally heard that cry. Virginian police officers will not have access to certain military-grade weaponry, including drones, grenades, tanks, .50 caliber guns or ammo, and more.
In part two of this series, we will look at the rest of the changes that go into effect on March 1st of this year.
The Law Office of Ann Thayer, PLLC is here to protect your rights against police abuses. If you need our help, we offer free consultations. You can call us at (703) 940-0001 or contact us online. There is in risk for talking to us.