Public Comments for 08/26/2020 Courts of Justice
Confidence in our judicial system (and confidence in the justice provided through our judicial system) hinges on the ability of the public to know what the justice system does. We need courts and court records (and law enforcement records) to be open and transparent to maintain confidence and faith in this branch of government. If there are questions, complaints or concerns about our justice system, the best way to ensure accountability is to have transparency. Transparency should be used to improve our justice system. Papering over problems by shielding documents about actions that were taken by our courts will not in the long run improve our justice system. In could, instead, have quite the opposite effect. It could quite possibly hide the problems from the public. Not to mention that the procedures for redacting names on the court records and databases by the clerks and the OES will slow down access to records generally. VCOG is sympathetic to notions of a clean slate and not having the sword of a past conviction forever hanging over one's head, but this bill swings so far in the opposite direction as to also jeopardize the public's right of access guaranteed by the First Amendment. To us, legislation prohibiting improper use of records of conviction would provide more effective protection than attempting to take those records out of the public sphere.
Due to the nature of the crimes committed I truly hope that each individual case will be reviewed before this is granted. A man who was committed of second degree murder should not have any opportunity to have a lighter sentence, no matter his behavior while incarcerated. The crimes committed and punishable by the state of VA should stand. 20 years was not enough, reducing this sentence further would be dishonorable to his victim and his victims family and friends.
I would like to talk about the lack of transparency on who was up for filing the spots in the City of Alexandria, I would like to introduce JudicialPedia.com, I want the names of the JIRC and again being blocked from getting them
When will this bill come before the house for a vote?
Surely if we allow this we can also allow people to sue the Governor and the Department of Corrections or the courts which actually is avoid idea and also let's add sue the legislators for the bills they put forward that pass how about that for accountability?
The Virginia Sheriffs Association is very much opposed to HB 5013. Sheriffs are sued regularly and are held accountable for their actions. There were $675,000.00 spend in defense of Sheriffs during a recent one year period. This is a far reaching bill that should be considered in a session that allows time for consideration. I was not allowed to speak representing the sheriffs and 8,500 deputy sheriffs.
I am writing to share clear opposition to HB 5097. This bill is clearly written to be punitive and would further limit the willingness of the parole board to parole individuals that are incarcerated. For a number of reasons, this is problematic, not the least of which is the parole board would be held liable for decisions that they have no control over that would be made by an independent person, the parolee. It's particularly troubling that police officers and others in the criminal justice system would assume far less responsibility. We need to focus our efforts on reducing incarceration as well as recidivism. This bill does the opposite by further criminalizing people. Please vote NO on HB5097
We request and support an amendment to exempt operators of commercial motor vehicles from Lines 68 through 75 of the bill to continue primary enforcement of marijuana laws for operators of commercial motor vehicles, including large trucks. Thank you,
I oppose HB5097.
Delegate, Please allow me to offer a few brief remarks regarding HB5069 and HB5099, which are absolute prohibitions on neck restraints and prohibitions on no-knock warrants. Both of these bills, fail to recognize the extreme conditions under which law enforcement officers at times operate. The utter prohibition of neck restraints in the defense of the officers life, or the life of another, would be a severe and dangerous limitation on an officers ability to save his or her own life or the life of another. We all agree that the application of this type of restraint can be deadly and it should be reserved only for those scenarios. An utter prohibition on no-knock warrants suffers from the same failure to recognize that extreme conditions, do and will exist, when taking dangerous criminal suspect into custody. We completely agree the application of these tactics need to be severely limited, but not so much so as to completely prohibit them. Respectfully, Chief John P. Clair
No knock search warrants are generally not used. The VSA supports the concept of the bill but feel there should be an accommodation for existent circumstances such as a hostage situation or when life is in jeopardy.
As a general rule, choke holds are not used. The bill should accommodate emergency situations in which an officer is trying to save his life as a last resort.
Virginia Innocence Coalition Testimony Supporting H.B.5013 My name is Michelle Feldman and I am the State Campaigns Director for the national Innocence Project. The national Innocence Project, Innocence Project at University of Virginia (UVA) School of Law, and Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project make up the Virginia Innocence Coalition, which strongly supports House Bill 5013. This legislation would prevent and address wrongful convictions by creating true accountability for law enforcement. On the prevention side, putting a price tag on police misconduct creates a strong incentive for agencies to adopt and enforce policies that prevent abuses which can lead to wrongful convictions. On the back end, it would provide exonerees with the financial justice they deserve after government officials violated their rights and unjustly took their freedom. Amendment Needed The Innocence Coalition has one major concern with H.B..5013—the deadline to file a claim is two years after a violation occurred, which excludes most wrongfully convicted people. In our cases, the constitutional violations typically occur decades before the innocent person is exonerated. We respectfully ask that the deadline be amended to state: Page 1, Line 27 add to subsection (c ).“If the conduct prohibited by this section results in prosecution or conviction of the plaintiff, the plaintiff has two years to file from date when any of the following occurred: (i) The underlying criminal conviction against the plaintiff was dismissed, (ii) The plaintiff was acquitted at a retrial, or (iii) The plaintiff was granted a writ of actual innocence or pardon. Qualified Immunity & Wrongful Convictions Qualified immunity is typically discussed in the context of police killings and brutality, but it also harms victims of wrongful conviction. To overcome qualified immunity in federal lawsuits, the victim must be able to point to legal precedent establishing that the same officer actions in a nearly identical case were unconstitutional. Courts have determined the illegality of some police actions commonly seen in exonerations. For example, false confessions are a leading cause of wrongful conviction, and an officer’s failure to read Miranda rights or grant a request for counsel during an interrogation has been ruled unconstitutional. However, other detrimental police actions that lead to false confessions have been protected by qualified immunity. Art Tobias was wrongfully incarcerated for more than three years after Los Angeles detectives coerced him into admitting to a 2012 shooting. Officers handcuffed the 13-year-old to a chair, screamed and cursed, lied about evidence, and denied his requests for his mother. Tobias was eventually exonerated and sued the officers. This February an appeals court ruled that qualified immunity protected their egregious behavior because there was no court precedent establishing these actions as illegal. *** HB 5013 is an important step in creating accountability and delivering justice for victims whose constitutional rights were violated by police. It would also deter the misconduct that leads to wrongful convictions and other harms. The Virginia Innocence Coalition urges the committee to vote in support of this legislation.
I write in support of Delegate Alex Askew House Bill 5098. As a member of the Virginia State Conference NAACP Political Action Committee, I believe we can all agree that false reporting hate crimes is a problem in our country. HB 5098 Hate crimes; falsely summoning or giving false reports to law-enforcement officials, addresses this and gives some type of consequence to those whom wish to file such a false claim. On behalf of the Virginia NAACP, I ask that each of you support this bill.
Greetings, My name is Allan-Charles Chipman. I live in Richmond, VA. I am asking that you vote yes to HB5045 and HB 5029. Please support HB 5045. Just because someone is accused of violating the law doesn’t mean the law shouldn’t protect them from being violated in their body and their spirit while in police custody. This should be a unanimous vote. Last time I checked, the 5th and 14th amendments stated you were innocent before proven guilty. Last time I checked ,even if guilty, The Fifth amendment says you are protected from cruel and unusual punishment. Whether guilty, innocent, or awaiting trial, you still have dignity and a right to safety. As a member of a global organization, I have spoken with peace builders all around the world that speak of sexual violence as a tactic of intimidation used to disincentivize and discourage people from asking for freedom. Having heard from several organizer here in Richmond who were stripped searched by police and had police utter inappropriate things about their bodies during the process, it is shameful that the law in VIRGINIA would not protect them. Let us right this wrong and pass HB 5045. Vote Yes on HB 5029 We must change the culture of police so that those who want to do right and dare to challenge a corrupt culture are protected from retaliation and required to act. The nation is in uproar because far too many times from Eric Garner to George Floyd we have seen police officers participate or refuse to intervene. Police officers watched as George’ Floyd’s black life flatlined due to their allegiance to the police culture of the blue line. Today we must draw a line in the sand and say as John Lewis said. “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.” And we must protect the good trouble makers when they do that. I am talking about good trouble makers like Cariol Horne who served 19 years in the Buffalo Police Department. IN 2006, she arrived at a crime scene and found a fellow officer choking a handcuffed black man while her fellow officers stood idly by. She urged the officer Gregory Kwiatkowski to stand down and removed his arm that he was using to choke out the suspect. She was assaulted by her fellow officer and fired by Buffalo police for obstructing justice. She was denied pension and was unable to retire and even had to live in a shelter for a while. In 2009, the same officer she tried to stop was caught slamming four Black teenagers into the ground, then punching them and berating them as “savage dogs.” Lack of accountability is permission for bad behavior to persist. If we don't throw a line of support to those who dare to cross the blue line for justice, our black and brown citizens will continue to flatline due to silence and complicity. As Dr. King said "There comes a point where silence becomes betrayal." As Audre Lorde said, "Your silence will not protect you." Let us mandate accountability and protect those who dare to participate in the process. Whether you believe police brutality is a result of a bad root or just bad apples, we must all agree that weeds need to be uprooted for flourishing to occur. Please vote yes to HB5029. Thank you, Allan-Charles Chipman
I am not aware of any police agency in Virginia that permits “choke holds” as a form of pain compliance. It should NEVER be use in that matter. However, officers/deputies are from time to time placed in the position to defend themselves…not just from physical harm but death. We are not superheroes and are not always able to win the fight. If you have not visited the law enforcement memorial you should. There you will see the name of some of the officers who lost the fight. To put this into perspective, outlawing this as the last resort for law enforcement but not the public places officers at a significant risk. You are in effect giving the public a tool to use against officers but not allowing officers to the ability to fight back and defend their lives. The hold should ONLY be permitted in law enforcement as a last resort. I and, the overwhelming majority of agencies across the country, believe using it in any other manner is a policy violation. I am asking that you reconsider this and or to reword it to be ONLY as a last resort where the use of deadly force is justified.
Testing the website/ not real comment
Please support : HB 5012 HB 5045 Please oppose: HB 5013 - existing law already addresses this. And the notion of qualified immunity giving impunity to law enforcement officers is FALSE. HB 5058 - defective equipment, no brake lights, sun shading are all primary safety regulations. Grace period for expired inspection & registration should be 30 days, not 4 months HB 5090 - proposal will compromise investigations, make witness & victims reluctant to get involved/report crimes; requirement to disclose specific address will de facto identify victims of sexual assault and family violence HB 5099 - no-knock warrants are rarely used, but are needed when armed resistance is likely - this is an officer safety issue Please amend: HB 5029 -Support duty to intervene. Making it a felony is grossly excessive. HB5069 - neck restraints should only be allowed when an officer is in a fight for their life. HB 5112 - bad law due to overreach by attempting to codify "...disciplinary action, including dismissal, demotion, suspension, or transfer of the law-enforcement officer."
Police and sheriff’s personnel are currently not protected by a shroud of immunity that completely absolves them from repercussions. Officers/deputies who act outside of policy and or in the realm of a criminal actions are not exempt from prosecution or civil responsibility. Officers/deputies are placed or forced, by way of calls for service, into situations that require split second decisions and or actions. Doing away with the current protections of qualified immunity will change the responses or the decisions they make. Perhaps worse than that will be the possibility that they fail to act and or make no decision. This bill, if passed, WILL put lives in danger. Lives of victims, bystanders, and or officers/deputies. If you choose to pass this bill YOU will put those lives at risk. Further, it places communities who have been ravaged by COVID restrictions to now be at financial risk for the actions of the law enforcement officers, who were required to provide services that are dictated by someone else. The job is not an assembly line. It is in an uncontrolled environment that others play a significant role in. There are ever changing circumstances, players, and a constant flow of new information. Almost none of this is in the control of the officer/deputy. Finally, targeting the police with this bill is reckless. It singles out one profession when in truth, if you intend to do this…it should apply to all public service jobs. Yes, I am talking about teachers, security officers, mental health and social workers, firefighters, EMTs and so on. To target ONLY one sector of public service is more of an attack than a fix. If you are truly concerned about mistakes being made and people or communities being financially protected…perhaps you should include all public service as listed above. Therefore, I implore you to reconsider this bill and or vote against it.
I am the Executive Director of the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy and am writing to support HB 5069. My academy does not teach any of our officers to employ any type of choke or neck restraint and classify these moves as deadly force. We do instruct our officers on how to counter when put into a choke or neck restraint and that this action must be quick in order for the choke to not render them unconscious. While I support HB 5069, and agree we should never see an officer use a choke or neck restraint as a means of gaining control or compliance. However, in extreme circumstances when use this restraint is the only option between life or death, we should allow a narrow carve out to protect our officers from criminal prosecution. As the bill is currently written, there is no exception for use of choke or neck restraints in extreme cases of self-protection from deadly encounters where the only means of survival would be to employ a choke or neck restraint to stop the attack. I would offer an amendment for the committee to consider. I humbly suggest and submit substitute language for HB 5069: § 18.2-51.8. Prohibition on the use of neck restraints by law-enforcement officers. A. As used in this section, "neck restraint" means the use of any body part or object to attempt to control or disable a person by applying pressure against the neck, including the trachea or carotid artery, with the purpose, intent, or effect of controlling or restricting the person's movement or restricting the person's blood flow or breathing, including chokeholds, carotid restraints, and lateral vascular neck restraints. B. Any law-enforcement officer, as defined in § 9.1-101, who uses a neck restraint in the performance of his office duties is guilty of a Class 6 felony. C. Unless the neck restraint was used, by a law enforcement officer, encountering personal deadly force resistance and all other reasonable means of self-protection are unavailable. A violation of this section shall constitute a separate and distinct offense. If the acts or activities violating this section also violate another provision of law, a prosecution under this section shall not prohibit or bar any prosecution or proceeding under such other provision or the imposition of any penalties provided for thereby. Thank you for your consideration. Michael Harvey
I would request to provide testimony on the legislation introduced regarding civil immunity regarding COVID-19 including: HB5019 Emergency (Runion) HB5037 Emergency (Miyares) HB5040 Emergency (O'Quinn) HB5074 Emergency (Sullivan) HB5110 Emergency (Ransone) The Virginia Agribusiness Council supports the concept of the legislation, but does support amending Delegate Sullivan's bill to strike language requiring businesses to comply with all federal, state and local regulations and guidelines. These guidelines and regulations are subject to change and federal guidelines can conflict with local and state standards or regulations. The language as currently written would create a standard that would be nearly impossible to meet to achieve civil immunity.
Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, law enforcement officers may clearly and abusively violate the constitutional rights of citizens with no repercussions. We have seen this time and time again for years in Richmond, but especially in the last months in which police officers have continually used violent and excessive force against peaceful protesters, often detaining young constituents of our city with no cause and attempted to intimidate those asking for justice. Richmond Police officers can be seen throwing young people on the ground for absolutely no justifiable reason, with no threat posed to the officers. There is clear evidence of this behaviour, many times perpetrated by police who have no name or badge numbers, intentionally obscuring their identities to further distance themselves from the possibility of being held accountable for the human rights violations they are committing. The doctrine of qualified immunity plays a huge role in the continued misconduct in police departments, as those who use excessive force or commit crimes against civilians are not held accountable, and thus, above the law, emboldened to act as they wish time and time again, regardless of the legality of their actions. Furthermore, the knowledge that this clause exists may embolden police to use excessive force in the first place, knowing that they will probably have an 'out' and not face any real consequences for their actions. When those who are supposed to protect us are the ones harming us, and they see no consequences for their unlawful actions, it is clear that the system is broken. Ending qualified immunity is but one step towards rectifying the glaring injustices that are embedded within our police systems. It is paramount that we take this step as one small action on a larger road to progress for a more just society.
I am available to address any technical legal questions about the bill that Delegates may have for me or help in any way that I can. Thank you.
The Governor supports HB 5068. DSS requests line amendments which have been incorporated into a substitute recommended by another agency and shared with Delegate Ayala. The DSS line amendments would change line 92 as follows: Line 92, after "to" strike "court-ordered", Line 92, after "child support" strike "payments", Line 92, after "spousal support" strike "payments" Line 92 after the amendments would read: Line 92 shall extend to child support, spousal support, or criminal restitution Line 93 orders
The City of Chesapeake Opposes HB5013: On behalf of the City of Chesapeake, I am writing in opposition to 5013 (Bourne) the City of Chesapeake is concerned that the proposed legislation: (1) creates a civil action for the deprivation of a person's rights by a law/enforcement officer and provides that a plaintiff may be awarded compensatory damages, punitive damages, and equitable relief, as well as reasonable attorney fees and costs; (2) imposes upon a law/enforcement officer's employer, a duty to exercise reasonable care to control a law/enforcement officer's conduct while such officer is acting outside the scope of his employment; (3) states that an employer has a duty of reasonable care to third parties in the supervision and training of law/enforcement officers for whose services it employs or contracts; "The City of Chesapeake adheres to the principles of equal employment opportunity. This policy extends to all programs and services supported by the City." ( 4) provides that an employer is liable to a vulnerable victim, for the tortious or criminal conduct of a law, enforcement officer it employs or contracts for his services; and (5) provides that sovereign immunity and governmental immunity shall not apply to such actions specified or created in the bill. HB 5013 represents an unprecedented attack on the sovereign immunity of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the City of Chesapeake and local governments across the Commonwealth. In particular, the Chesapeake City Council opposes the following provision in the introduced bill: ~ 8.01-42.7 (B) An employer is under a duty to exercise reasonable care to control law, enforcement officer it employs or contracts for the services of, while the officer is acting outside the scope of such officer's employment or contract for services, so as to prevent such officer from intentionally harming third parties or from conducting himself so as to create an unreasonable risk of bodily harm to such third parties, if the law, enforcement officer is (i) upon premises in possession or control of the employer, (ii) is at any premises or location because of or incidental to work being done for such employer, or (iii) is using chattel of such an employer. This provision, imposing a duty of care and oversight upon the Commonwealth and local governments of law enforcement officer's off-duty conduct, represents severe overreach and a perilous path forward. The fiscal implications for localities will be tremendous as insurance costs are certain to substantially increase, particularly for larger localities. While the Chesapeake City Council appreciates and recognizes the hard work you and you're colleagues are doing on behalf of the Commonwealth and its citizens, the Council cannot support this particular legislation or any piece of legislation that will put our municipal government at risk. Again thank you for your time and service to our Commonwealth.
In practice, Qualified Immunity has created a higher class of citizen, beholden only to internal government politics and, very rarely, noticeable and sustained public outcry. In most cases, those who benefit most from qualified immunity--those in a "law enforcement" role--are not elected officials in a representative democracy, they're just cops with guns that have been trained to view everything as a threat. Many of those cops and LEOs, as shown by investigative research, have ulterior motives from outside their role as public servants that often can be described as racist (https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-08-04/sheriff-deputy-clique-payouts for one example). People say things like "the system is broken" and "All cops are.." Qualified Immunity is the system, and it covers "all cops." If those who would not back defunding the police entirely want to prove that police murders are isolated incidents by "a few bad apples," it would be *in their best interest* to abandon qualified immunity, and put in place civilian oversight to prove that these indeed are not systemic events and purify the ranks of the police from these rare bad actors. Isn't a representative democracy literally supposed to be "citizen oversight?" How did we get here? Qualified Immunity is one obvious, simple answer. No citizen should have privileges over any other to use a deadly weapon with no recourse. Please protect the people of this country and make qualified immunity a thing of the past. Thank you. Tommy C 23230
I speak in strong opposition to placing the responsibility of an individual's actions on the Parole Board. This is in clear vindication for decisions previously made by the Parole Board that were valid and appropriate. I appreciate the service of the Parole Board in making difficult decisions regarding the release of individuals who have proven that they are prepared to re-enter society. The fact is that there is no way to determine the social impacts that a person will encounter upon their discharge from a facility. It is not fair or just to expect the appointed Parole Board members to be responsible for the actions of an individual in the future after they made a decision based on that person's past history. The Parole Board is tasked with granting parole and also revoking parole if there are instances where individuals do not prove to be worthy of their early release. The parole process undergoes an extensive research process and I trust the decisions made by the board, whether they are favorable or not, for certain individuals. We cannot, in good faith, expect an appointed board to be the gatekeeper, the investigator, and the guardian of each individual who they have deemed eligible for release. To put things into greater perspective, we are not allowed to hold the parents of adults legally responsible for their actions when they commit an offense and it is simply not just to put such high expectations on an appointed Board who makes difficult decisions as is. Furthermore, the costs of prisons are expensive and pale in comparison to successful re-entry efforts. In Virginia, the state spends $824,010,613 on its prison systems. It costs anywhere between $20,000 and $40,000 per year to house inmates in federal and state correctional facilities. We cannot continue to bear the brunt of the costs it takes to lock away individuals, provide food, shelter and medical for them instead of providing the proper tools necessary to re-integrate into society and become taxpayers and contributing members of society. I hope that we will continue to have trust in our Parole Board to carry out their duties and continue to make the necessary decisions that protect both the safety and strength of our Commonwealth.
ChamberRVA, the regional chamber of commerce for Central Virginia, is highly supportive of the objective of providing immunity for people or entities that act in good faith to act reasonably in protecting the health of others. We do have two concerns about two aspects of Del. Sullivan's bill (HB 5074). First, we have found that it is often quite difficult to locate, interpret, and apply the differing COVID-related "laws, policies, procedures and guidance" (to use the wording of the bill) from the federal, state, and local levels of government that might apply in a particular business or other setting. Often those guidelines are ambiguous or even inconsistent with one another, making it very difficult to determine what the requirements are. We fear that such ambiguity will afford little immunity, even to very well-meaning individuals. Second, the requirement to post notice of actions taken to prevent transmission of COVID is too vague to provide guidance. The regulatory requirements for business locations to prevent transmission are far too detailed to be susceptible to posting in a way that could or would be read by members of the public. Again, ChamberRVA supports providing immunity to people who act appropriately in trying to prevent transmission of the disease. We are just concerned that conditioning that immunity on requirements that will be very difficult or impossible to meet may completely undercut the objective of providing such immunity.
Please vote yes on this Bill. Emergency relief payments are designed to help Americans whose lives have been devastated by a disaster such as the current pandemic and not intended to help creditors recoup past due debts. However, these payments may be taken from the families that so desperately need them if the General Assembly does not take action. Many Virginians are struggling to pay utility bills, rent, and buy food, medical supplies, and other basic living necessities and these funds need to get to them as intended.
Good Afternoon Chair Herring and Members of the House Courts of Justice Committee, I’m writing to you today to express our concerns with and opposition to House Bill 5013 (Bourne), as introduced. We recently circulated a letter expressing the same sentiments as below, but as the bill is being heard today and a scheduling conflict will prevent me from being there, I wanted to reiterate our concerns below. As drafted, HB 5013: (1) creates a civil action for the deprivation of a person's rights by a law-enforcement officer and provides that a plaintiff may be awarded compensatory damages, punitive damages, and equitable relief, as well as reasonable attorney fees and costs; (2) imposes upon a law-enforcement officer's employer, a duty to exercise reasonable care to control a law-enforcement officer's conduct while such officer is acting outside the scope of his employment; (3) states that an employer has a duty of reasonable care to third parties in the supervision and training of law-enforcement officers for whose services it employs or contracts; (4) provides that an employer is liable to a vulnerable victim, for the tortious or criminal conduct of a law-enforcement officer it employs or contracts for his services; and (5) provides that sovereign immunity and governmental immunity shall not apply to such actions specified or created in the bill. HB 5013 is a dangerous and unprecedented attack on the sovereign immunity of the Commonwealth of Virginia and its local governments. VACo has long held a position opposing substantive changes to sovereign immunity, and as such opposes this sweeping legislation. Beyond this overall stance on sovereign immunity, VACo has specific concerns with the following provision in the introduced bill: § 8.01-42.7 (B) An employer is under a duty to exercise reasonable care to control a law-enforcement officer it employs or contracts for the services of, while the officer is acting outside the scope of such officer's employment or contract for services, so as to prevent such officer from intentionally harming third parties or from conducting himself so as to create an unreasonable risk of bodily harm to such third parties, if the law-enforcement officer is (i) upon a premises in possession or control of the employer, (ii) is at any premises or location because of or incidental to work being done for such employer, or (iii) is using chattel of such employer. This provision, imposing a duty of care and oversight upon the Commonwealth and local governments of law enforcement officer’s conduct outside of the scope of their employment - which includes their off-duty actions - represents severe overreach and a perilous path forward. The fiscal implications for localities will be tremendous as insurance costs are certain to substantially increase, particularly for larger localities. Thank your for your time and thoughtful consideration. Respectfully, Dean A. Lynch, CAE Executive Director Virginia Association of Counties
This letter was sent to the following: Dear Delegate Bourne and Delegate Jay Jones: The Virginia Municipal League (VML) appreciates your service to the Commonwealth and we look forward to sitting down with you to discuss this important legislation prior to the 2021 General Assembly Session in January. Incidents in our communities have brought this to a level of attention that demands careful thought and follow-up action. However, at this time, VML must reluctantly oppose HB5013. VML has a long-standing position regarding sovereign immunity that reads as follows: “The Virginia General Assembly should strengthen and must maintain the principles of sovereign immunity for local governments and their officials.” We believe that sovereign immunity is an important public policy based on decades of litigation, striking the appropriate balance between the rights of the public and functions of government. Government cannot serve the people if subject to unnecessary intrusion. VML looks forward to discussing various examples of this balance with you as well as areas for reform and the financial implications of any changes to this public policy. Attached is a link to our key points: https://www.vml.org/enews-august-21-2020/ Thank you for your consideration of our comments.
I urge you to pass legislation to create the Marcus Alert System. The people of this city want the legacy of Marcus David Peters to be one that betters the community, and the people have shown their commitment to their demands by the presence in the streets for months. We need to explore alternatives to policing in this city, and once this is enacted I think we will all see how vitally important it is to treat cases with sensitivity and not with a gun. Please take this step forward for our community, for our nation, and for Marcus David Peters.
On behalf of the Virginia Association of Community-Based Providers, I would like to express strong support for this bill, which will provide liability protections for those providing critical behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The VACBP is the largest organization representing private-sector, community-based behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment services to Medicaid members and others in Virginia. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the VACBP has been fighting to ensure those on the mental health “front lines,” along with the agencies that employ them, are adequately protected from liability as they are providing much-needed treatment and care. In April, the VACBP joined a broad coalition of provider groups and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association to request that the Governor issue an executive order to address liability protections during COVID-19. In response to that, the Governor issued Executive Order 60, which clarified the interpretation of two existing immunity statutes that apply to “healthcare providers.” The immunities in these statutes, however, are only applicable to “healthcare providers” as defined in the Medical Malpractice Act (8.01-581.1). Included are those who are licensed by the Department of Health Professions (DHP), but not QMHPs and others, who are registered but not licensed by DHP. Assisted living facilities, hospice, home health, adult day care and group homes were also not included in those protected by EO 60. Since that time, we have continued to push to provide liability protections for all providers licensed by DBHDS. This legislation addresses this issue and we respectfully urge your support. Thanks for your consideration.
I am writing to urge the court to end qualified immunity. Qualified immunity does not serve or protect the public instead it shields officers from accountability and stops victims of civil rights violations from receiving justice. We the public deserve better. Stop protecting bad cops and start protecting civil rights. We deserve better from our Judicial system. Qualified Immunity is unjust, unfair and unreasonable please stand up for the people you were hired to serve. And begin to make the changes we so desperately need to see.
The VACP supports the intent of this bill as chokeholds as a compliance technique have no place in our profession. However, we would like acknowledgement that in extremely rare instances, an officer may be involved in a struggle with a suspect that results in a "fight for life" where a suspect is trying to get access to the officer's weapon on their belt, etc. If the officer has exhausted all efforts in his/her training to escape the situation, they should have the same right as a citizen to defend themselves against a deadly attack. Thank you.
The VACP opposes HB5058 as it would limit the ability of officers to maintain the safety of our communities. In my own community, sensitivity to loud noise, especially defective mufflers, can be a concern that leads a citizen to call the dispatch center. With passage of this bill, officers would not be able to stop the vehicle in question if still in the area for this violation. Moving the other equipment violations to a secondary status would also reduce highway safety as if the only reason to stop the vehicle is the equipment violation, we would never be able to address a dangerous vehicle (i.e. bald tires). Regarding search and seizures based solely on the odor of marijuana, again, we are reducing our officers' ability to ensure safety. In my experience and in that of my officers, rarely does a vehicle search based on the odor of marijuana net only marijuana. Often other narcotics, specifically opioids are also present. This will greatly diminish our ability to affect the supply stream of opioids coming into and through our communities. Thank you.
The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police opposes HB5013. If passed, this will no doubt result in a flight of outstanding law enforcement professionals from serving their communities. While we agree their is no place for brutality, bias and other abuses of power in our profession, we must provide protections for those good officers who are truly serving their community, often being placed in situations that require split-second decisions to save lives and protect the community.
As a member of the Virginia Army National Guard I was taught to follow a law that included all laws of the land plus a higher set of rules under the uniform code of military justice. It is unacceptable to me as a veteran and citizen that police in a country founded on the constitution that I swore an oath to uphold and defend should be immune from consequences of their actions in the justice system. I have known for a long time that there are multiple ways in which justice is not equally applied in this country. However, it is only in light of the recent upheavals that I have learned that qualified immunity even exist. This is anathema to a free, just, and fair society. No one should be above the law. Not even the president, and certainly not the police. Warriors should be held to a higher accounting of their personal behavior, not lesser. That's what it means to serve.
I support HB 5029, to *require* law-enforcement officers to intervene if another officer uses unlawful force, & render aid to those injured. If you stand by & watch a fellow officer severely injure a person you are just as guilty as the one doing the harm. I support HB 5045, to make it a Class 6 felony for a law enforcement officer to have carnal knowledge of anyone they are in a *position of authority* over. Why isn’t this illegal already? The bill states “carnally know without force, threat, or intimidation…” -- you have *zero choice* if they have authority over you. The potential abuse you’d be subject to if you refuse is immeasurable. I support HB 5069, to *prohibit* the use of neck restraints by law-enforcement officers. This is violent & should never be used. Taking away someone’s ability to breathe is not restraint, it is murder. I support the *idea of* HB 5072, to authorize the Attorney General to file civil suits/inquire into unlawful practices by law enforcement. *Qualified immunity* must end & officers must be held accountable for their actions & not deny us our constitutional rights. They would act better if they had consequences. *However* language of this bill that is problematic & restrictive: It states the “Attorney General is empowered to issue a civil investigate demand.” We should be able to file suits with our *own* lawyers. It states the “Division of Human Rights” as part of the “Department of Law”, which would investigate & hold hearings & appoint “hearing officers” to make decisions. We cannot have a division of law enforcement doing the investigating of unlawful actions of law enforcement. That's not a fair trial. The bill (# 8) states the “Division” of Human Rights can - “8. Accept public grants or private gifts, bequests, or other payments” There is *zero* reason you should get private gifts or other payments. Again I support the *idea of* HB 5072, but I’m disturbed by the language & hope this bill is *amended* so law enforcement can't hide behind qualified immunity & we can have fair investigations of civil rights abuses. I support HB 5098, to make it a *crime/increase* the penalty of making false police reports based on one’s race, religion, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, or national origin. False police reports are used to weaponize the police against others. Marginalized groups are most likely to be harmed by police in the first place. I support HB 5099, to *prohibit* no-knock search warrants. Officers must identify themselves, the agency they work for, & have a search warrant before entering anyone’s property. Otherwise you are putting everyone’s lives at stake. Imagine if you were at home & someone busted through your door. That’s a home invasion. You'd be terrified. You'd fight back. No-knock warrants are guaranteed to cause harm or death & should never be allowed. I support HB 5112, to *require* law-enforcement officers to render medical aid, & *require* officers to report wrongdoing by another officer. Police should not wait for EMT’s if someone is dying. Regarding reporting wrongdoing by another officer - if you watch something that’s wrong but do not try to stop it/report it - you are complicit in causing harm & the behavior will continue in the future. If officers knew that no one would cover up their wrongdoing & that they would have to suffer the consequences of their actions, maybe they wouldn’t do it in the first place.
Please end qualified immunity for police officers so police can be held accountable for disproportionate brutality towards black people.
The Innocence Project at University of Virginia (UVA) School of Law, Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP) and national Innocence Project make up the Virginia Innocence Coalition, which advocates for policies that address and prevent wrongful convictions. Our coalition would like to thank Delegate Hurst for authoring H.B. 5090 and encourage the committee to support this legislation. Under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) if convicted people ask for the investigative files in their cases, police departments have discretion on whether to comply. Agencies often cite an exemption in the law for “ongoing criminal investigations” to deny these requests—even when convictions are final. By contrast, Maryland has a robust public records law that has played an important role in overturning wrongful convictions. For example, last November the “Harlem Park Three” were exonerated of a Baltimore murder after spending 36 years in prison because a public records request turned up a previously hidden police report revealing the identity of the actual perpetrator. Without access to this information, the three would still be in prison. Over the past 13 months MAIP has tracked its requests for criminal investigative files from police and prosecutor agencies in both Virginia and Maryland. The chart below demonstrates how Virginia’s law is hampering the ability of innocence organizations to investigate and file wrongful conviction claims. MAIP Police/Prosecutor Investigative File Requests Virginia Maryland Total Requests 22 45 Agency Sent File 3 22 Agency Reports No Docs 5 11 Agency Currently Searching for Files 6 12 Agency Withheld File Under FOIA 8 0 H.B. 5090 would require police agencies to release criminal investigative files at the request of convicted persons. In addition, it would clarify that the exemption for disclosures in “ongoing investigations” does not apply when a conviction is final. This legislation will ensure that Virginia can overturn wrongful convictions of innocent people and help law enforcement identify the people who actually committed the crime. It is an important step in enhancing criminal justice and public safety in the Commonwealth and we urge the Committee to pass it.
Matthew Rushin received 50 years in jail for an auto accident (non fatal). The investigation was flawed and he did not receive adequate representation - especially considering he has autism. Matthew has a head injury & is in critical condition. Requesting full pardon & release of Matthew Rushin. End qualified immunity - nobody should be exempt from justice. The public has a right to know the record of tax paid officers. Institute the Marcus Alert so that qualified mental health professionals are first responder to mental health crisis.
People who enter the police force say their desire is to serve and protect. If that is true then they are in no need to have a blanket law that shields them from inspection or questioning in use of deadly force. If we are to be the better person and protect the law then we should not be above the law. If we trust the judicial process then a time that a police officer is forced to use a gun should not be feared, for we trust the truth will come out. However, murder is murder. Just because one puts on a badge it does not give freedom of bad judgement. It means that you took an oath, one with more responsibility. Therefore they should not be judged easier but rather with more scrutiny. Anyone with power should have the public interest and therefore more eyes upon them. Let us go into the future with more hope and trust in the police force then we have currently been given. Please know that I am not for qualified immunity. Police officers should be trained in ways that they should never have needed it.
Hello, I am a citizen of Richmond, Virginia. I am writing to voice my support to a statewide ban on Qualified Immunity. I believe that officers should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, both on and off duty. We as a society deserve to hold our enforcers of law to the highest standard the law permits. Random Patillo
In the wake of a new round of protests against police brutality nationwide and Virginia in particular, we need to ensure a more safe future for those most impacted by policing. We the citizens of Virginia pay police to protect us and yet they have broken that promise again and again through violence and surveillance of us, namely black and brown folks. It is up to you And the courts to hold police accountable when they make transgressions. Impunity is dangerous, often lethal for the most vulnerable folks in our state. Please support Delegate Bourne’s bill to end qualified immunity.
Our Elected Representatives, It is with the HIGHEST urgency I compose this message. As the General Assembly prepares and convenes in the coming days, it must be recognized that the public outcry for reform and abolition has reached heights unseen for over half a century. Among our demands are the following: • End Qualified Immunity statewide • Institute the Marcus Alert System statewide • Adopt Independent Civilian Review Boards, with Subpoena Power statewide We will not accept watered down versions of these demands, as they are clear. We recognize that these are but small pieces in the puzzle of accountability. We will continue to fight unabated for these demands. We are aware that Delegates Jay Jones, Jeff Bourne, Jennifer McClellan, and Ghazala Hashmi plan to put forth legislation regarding these demands. We expect you to consider these bills carefully, but to also vocally support legislation that aligns with the goals of your constituents through every platform you have. Ending Qualified Immunity “First, it would make it easier for individuals to obtain remedies for violations of constitutional rights. Second, it would change structural incentives for governments at all levels, encouraging them to take more responsibility for the actions of their employees. Since the government’s insurance company almost always pays the bill when an officer is found personally liable for violating someone’s rights, if qualified immunity is removed, governments would be forced to pay higher premiums, unless they took an active role in reducing civil and constitutional rights violations. For police, this might include providing de-escalation training and instituting robust use-of-force policies. In other words, a world without qualified immunity would mean a world where governments have a stake in making sure their employees follow the Constitution." Regards, Mitch Hughes
I support the end of Qualified Immunity which, regardless of its original purpose, has come to be used exclusively as a barrier protecting police from repercussions following undue and unjustified acts of violence and brutality. These acts disproportionately are carried out against Black and brown folks, leading to an atmosphere of terror in areas of my city. End Qualified Immunity. Remove the wall the police are hiding behind. Give my friends and neighbors a fighting chance. Thank you.
Thank you to the Courts of Justice Committee for giving me this opportunity to speak in support of HB 5090, in particular, lines 48-65 having to do with access to closed/inactive/completed investigative files. My name is Megan Rhyne and I represent the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. VCOG believes that transparency is an essential element of any law enforcement or criminal justice reform effort. We have heard the terms transparency and accountability used frequently, but often only in terms of consequences, like If you do X then Y should occur so that you will be held accountable. This bill, however, is about accountability for the everyday work of law enforcement through public access to department records. Like records in all governmental entities, criminal investigative records tell the story of the law enforcement office’s work. They were created and maintained because they have value to the office. But they are currently all but forbidden. The law now allows the discretionary release of investigative records, but that discretion is rarely exercised in favor of disclosure, even when a decision not to prosecute was made long ago, or even when a person has been convicted, served his sentence, or even died. This black box of investigative records deprives individuals or their families access to the story of their case. Advocates are unable to pursue claims of actual innocence. Academics cannot obtain records to research patterns or practices used during a certain time or by a particular person. This near-total secrecy compromise’s the press’s duty and the public’s RIGHT to monitor the actions of those we have entrusted and funded to protect us. FOIA includes several exemptions for many other types of investigations while they are still pending, but the exemptions expire and require release of records upon the investigation’s conclusion. We believe similar transparency should be brought to criminal investigative records and ask, that you vote yes on HB 5090. The Virginia Press Association has asked to be associated with these comments. Thank you for your time.
The Virginia Sheriff’s Association opposes SB 5032. Law Enforcement officers are routinely assaulted and many assaults leave no obvious bodily injuries but can be just as deadly as serious bodily injurties, such as assaults by those infected with HIV or other infectious diseases.