The Criminal Justice Services Board (CJSB) will have the responsibility of decertifying officers engaged in misconduct or criminally charged and implementing statewide conduct standards for law enforcement, if the Senate’s omnibus policing and reform legislation is signed into law.
Last Friday, the president of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Delegates both signed the legislation, and on Wednesday the bill was communicated to Governor Ralph Northam for final approval.
Introduced during the special session by Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), SB 5030 has language on a number of reforms, one of those being the decertification of officers by the CJSB.
“Individuals were able to be engaged in misconduct in one jurisdiction, be able to resign [from] that job and simply move over to another jurisdiction [to get a new] job,” Locke said in an interview with The Virginia Star. “The way that we did this legislation, we would be able to prohibit that.”
The bill also allows for the CJSB to state decertification proceedings if an officer violates the conduct standards they will develop and requires sheriffs’, chiefs of police or agency administrator to give the board written notice within 48 hours of finding out that any currently employed, certified law enforcement or jail officer has engaged in serious misconduct.
Locke said the entire intent and purpose of the provision is to stop officers from resigning before receiving adjudication or being decertified to make landing a job with a new agency easier – a practice that has occurred among law enforcement.
Additionally, the legislation calls for the CJSB or the former employer to disclose all information relating to arrests, civil suits, internal investigations, excessive use of force or other forms of misconduct to the law enforcement agency looking to hire that officer.
The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and Foundation, State Police and the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association (VSA) all support the legislation, according to Locke.
“That [legislation] does make improvements in terms of allowing the decertification of bad cops and, as far as we’re concerned, that’s probably one of the most positive points of the bill,” John Jones, VSA executive director, told The Star. “At least you won’t have [situations] where you have an officer that resigns just before getting fired or charged, he leaves and goes on and there is not much of a record on anything. We think that is where we need to be going.”
Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg), who voted against SB 5030 while it progressed through the Senate because it gives the impression that law enforcement is bad, said he did not have an issue with the provision overall, just one part of it.
“I have a problem with the Board being able to decertify law enforcement,” Peak said in an interview. “I think it should be the local police agency that terminates its own employees.”
Peake added that the omnibus bill tried to join together too many issues, some he agreed with and some he did not, that could have been reform legislation on their own.
Now that the governor has been communicated the bill, Northam has until 11:59 p.m. on October 28, next Wednesday, to take action on the bill, which could involve sending it back to the legislative bodies with amendments.
Locke said that she believed Northam would sign SB 5030 into law.
“Governor Northam is committed to criminal justice reform,” Alena Yarmosky, the governor’s press secretary, told The Star. “He will carefully review this bill, as he does all legislation.”
– – –