Roanoke City Council asks lawmakers to rescind some criminal justice reforms

Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 7:59 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia General Assembly passed sweeping criminal justice reforms following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police officers.

Now, members of Roanoke City Council are asking lawmakers to rescind some of those changes, as they try to help the city target violent crime.

A legislative meeting Monday morning included a measure of “I told you so,” from Republican lawmakers.

“I find it interesting that this city council as well as other city councils around are saying, we (Republicans) were right, these are bad policies and they need to be rolled back,” Del. Chris Head (R-Botetourt Co.) told council members.

“I’m not too concerned about who is going to get credit for it, or who was right or who was wrong,” Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea responded. “I’m just hoping that we can get something that can help out police officers.”

Council’s recommendations, prepared with input from Police Chief Sam Roman, include primary enforcement of traffic safety laws, allowing police to pull someone over if they have defective brake lights, for example.

And they want lawmakers to restore the presumption against bail for some of the most serious offenses.

“I think they struck the right balance - only having no-knock warrants go through judges was a good reform that we passed - but I also think that they recognized that several of the things that passed on strictly partisan basis, strictly party line votes that were often coming from a more ideological place than a practical place, were not good,” said Sen. David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke Co.).

Democratic State Senator John Edwards was in Richmond chairing committee meetings, but his Chief of Staff and incoming council member Luke Priddy said the review of criminal justice reforms should be undertaken with care.

“It would be important to have data-driven approaches, have the state look at which of these reforms are working, before we really consider which ones we really want to roll back,” Priddy said.

And with a divided legislature, it’s unclear how city council’s recommendations will fare when lawmakers reconvene in January.