Criminal Justice reforms continue to advance during special session

Published: Sep. 11, 2020 at 7:45 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - For supporters of criminal justice reform who marched in the streets, and for Democratic lawmakers who made the issue a legislative priority, Thursday’s vote in the State Senate was a major step forward.

But legislation that has now cleared the House and Senate has also revealed a sharp divide.

Republican Delegate and former Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) is visiting southwestern Virginia this weekend as he prepares to run for Governor.

In an interview Friday afternoon, he said a special session called to deal with the budget has been dominated by what he describes as anti-law enforcement bills.

'The Democrats keep saying it’s not against law enforcement," Cox told WDBJ7, “but you can’t put that many bills in that have such an anti-law enforcement bias, and say that’s not a direct shot.”

“We know that most of law enforcement are filled with good people who are trying to do well, but some of these cultures need to be challenged," countered Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke).

Rasoul is also considering a run for statewide office next year, as a potential candidate for Lieutenant Governor. He said there is an important conversation around policing reform that needs to occur, and needed reforms that are overdue.

“Not everyone is going to be happy as we’re building consensus,” Rasoul said, “but it all is around transparency and accountability.”

Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall is the current President of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.

He’s pleased legislation that would limit officers' immunity from lawsuits has been killed, but some of the remaining measures, he says, are also poorly conceived.

“It will certainly make the job of law enforcement officers more difficult, and in some cases more dangerous," Hall said. “And it will endanger our communities.”

Now that the House and Senate have passed criminal justice legislation, lawmakers still have differences to resolve. But it appears most of these measures are one step closer to becoming law.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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