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Northam signs sweeping new laws to reform policing, criminal justice in Virginia

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Virginia, today, became the third state in the nation to ban no-knock search warrants.

The measure, sponsored by Del. Lashrecse D. Aird, D-Petersburg, was signed into law today by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Other legislative initiatives signed into law today include a bill that will reduce the militarization of local police, another that creates statewide minimum training standards for law enforcement, and a third that will require law enforcement agencies and jails to request the prior employment and disciplinary history of new hires.

“Too many families, in Virginia and across our nation, live in fear of being hurt or killed by police,” Northam said. “These new laws represent a tremendous step forward in rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. I am grateful to the legislators and advocates who have worked so hard to make this change happen.

“Virginia is better, more just, and more equitable with these laws on our books,” Northam said.

Police reform

Northam signed Senate Bill 5030, sponsored by State Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, omnibus police reform legislation, which incorporates a number of critical reform measures passed by the House of Delegates.

  • House Bill 5099 prohibits law enforcement officers from seeking or executing a no-knock search warrant. With Northam’s signature, Virginia becomes the third state in the nation to ban no-knock warrants.
  • House Bill 5049 reduces the militarization of police by prohibiting law enforcement from obtaining or using specified equipment, including grenades, weaponized aircraft, and high caliber firearms. Northam amended this bill to clarify that law enforcement agencies can seek a waiver to use restricted equipment for search and rescue missions.
  • House Bill 5109 creates statewide minimum training standards for law enforcement officers, including training on awareness of racism, the potential for biased profiling, and de-escalation techniques. Northam made technical amendments to this bill to align it with Senate Bill 5030.
  • House Bill 5104 mandates law enforcement agencies and jails request the prior employment and disciplinary history of new hires.
  • House Bill 5108 expands and diversifies the Criminal Justice Services Board, ensuring that the perspectives of social justice leaders, people of color, and mental health providers are represented in the state’s criminal justice policymaking.
  • House Bill 5051 strengthens the process by which law enforcement officers can be decertified and allows the Criminal Justice Services Board to initiate decertification proceedings.
  • House Bill 5069 limits the circumstances in which law enforcement officers can use neck restraints.
  • House Bill 5029 requires law enforcement officers intervene when they witness another officer engaging or attempting to engage in the use of excessive force.
  • House Bill 5045 makes it a Class 6 felony for law enforcement officers to “carnally know” someone they have arrested or detained, an inmate, parolee, probationer, pretrial defendant, or post trial offender, if the officer is in a position of authority over such individual.
  • House Bill 5055 and Senate Bill 5035 empower localities to create civilian law enforcement review boards. These new laws also permit civilian review boards the authority to issue subpoenas and make binding disciplinary decisions.
  • Senate Bill 5014 mandates the creation of minimum crisis intervention training standards and requires law enforcement officers complete crisis intervention training.

Criminal justice reform

  • Senate Bill 5018 allows individuals serving a sentence for certain felony offenses who are terminally ill to petition the Parole Board for conditional release.
  • Northam amended House Bill 5148 and Senate Bill 5034, which allow for increased earned sentencing credits. The governor proposed a six-month delay to give the Department of Corrections sufficient time to implement this program.