Last Updated on July 2, 2020
Ahead of a special session of Virginia’s state legislature meant to address COVID-19, Virginia Democrats are preparing to hijack the legislative agenda and put forward a package of “police reform” bills designed decrease police funding, change the way police officers do their jobs, and even “defelonize” physical attacks on police officers.
“The deaths of Floyd, Arbery, and Taylor have awoken Americans and Virginians to long-standing problems in policing in America,” said Virginia’s Senate Democrat Caucus in a press release unveiling the “Senate Democratic Caucus Police Reform and Criminal Justice Equity Plan.”
While the caucus believes the 28-point list of proposed “reforms” is a start, they’re already claiming it isn’t enough, despite the fact that the proposals in question have yet to even play out in reality.
“In the absence of universal pre-K, quality schools, a path to economic equity, affordable healthcare, affordable and quality housing, and food access, we will not be able to close the many paths that lead to the criminal justice system pipeline,” the Caucus wrote before unveiling their proposals.
Though the caucus credits a number of line items as being directly related to the deaths of Floyd and Taylor, banning no-knock warrants and chokeholds for example, the effort to “defelonize assault on law enforcement officers” is not, unless legislators drew inspiration from the number of Black Lives Matter and Antifa rioters currently facing felony charges for doing so.
In a July 1 column published by the Fort Hunt Herald, Senate Democrat Caucus Chairman Scott Surovell (D-36), who earlier this year put forth legislation allowing illegal aliens to obtain Virginia driver’s licenses, explained his personal and partisan support for defelonizing physical attacks against police officers.
“In 1997, our legislature made assault on a law enforcement officer a felony. This means that touching a police officer without the officer’s consent can result in felony charges. I have seen people charged with this for slapping an officer’s wrist as the officer hands over a speeding ticket or bumping into an officer and walking away from a vehicle. Officers often use this charge when an officer’s misconduct could be alleged. We need to return this to a misdemeanor offense as it was for 200 years. Serious injuries can always be charged as felonies.
Under current Virginia law, suspects convicted of assault against a police officer, a class six felony, face a minimum of six months and a maximum of five years in jail.
Were the charge to be downgraded to a class one misdemeanor, convicted offenders would face a maximum of one year in jail, with no minimum sentence required, meaning that even if convicted, an assailant could waltz right out of the courthouse a free man.
In addition to defelonizing attacks on cops, Senate Democrats hope to pass a number of initiatives that will chip away at officers’ ability to defend themselves with lethal force against a life-threatening suspect, including a ban on firing shots at a moving vehicle and requiring officers to fire warning shots before shooting at a suspect.
While Democrats claim that the proposals come in response to a number of use of force incidents, it would seem that virtually all incidences cited by the Senate Democrats took place in other states.
Virginia has yet to have any large scale problems with unjustified police shootings, or police shootings in general, ranking number 39 out of 50 states in fatal officer-involved shootings per 1,000,000 residents from the years 2013-2019.