Virginia ABC named alcohol law enforcement agency of the year

virginia abcSound governance, bold leadership, innovation, resourcefulness and community partnerships during an unprecedented year have earned Virginia ABC the Alcohol Law Enforcement Agency of the Year award from the National Liquor Law Enforcement Association.

The NLLEA is a non-profit association of law enforcement personnel in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to the enforcement of liquor laws and regulations.

“The NLLEA’s award for Alcohol Law Enforcement Agency of the Year is given to an agency that has demonstrated effectiveness through the implementation of innovative programs, community and media recognition, and model training programs, practices and strategies,” said NLLEA President Greg Croft. “Virginia ABC’s Bureau of Law Enforcement has embodied all of these attributes over the past year, and the NLLEA is pleased to honor them.”

“While our Bureau of Law Enforcement emphasizes regulatory enforcement with an eye toward voluntary compliance, this year they went even further in supporting licensees affected by economic uncertainties brought on by the global pandemic by providing guidance and relief from regulatory challenges wherever possible,” said ABC Chief Executive Officer Travis Hill. “They accomplished this objective while maintaining a focus on public safety. Our agents, under Chief Tom Kirby’s leadership, have my gratitude and support in fulfilling their important mission.”

Virginia ABC’s Bureau of Law Enforcement has issued 16 Topic responses since a State of Emergency went into effect on March 12. Notable regulatory adjustments have included:

  • Creating an accelerated process for receiving and processing requests for outside dining areas;
  • Allowing restaurants with mixed beverage licenses and distilleries with approved tasting rooms the ability to provide delivery services and take-out mixed drinks;
  • Deferring license renewal fees for up to 90 days;
  • Providing for businesses with an on-premise beer and wine license the ability to sell off-premise by way of curbside pickup or delivery; and
  • Easing delivery criteria for manufacturers, wholesalers, distilleries and others.

“It’s an honor to receive national recognition from our peers,” said Chief Law Enforcement Officer Tom Kirby. “Throughout this extraordinary year, both sworn and non-sworn staff have worked around-the-clock to carry out our mission, adjusting and adapting whenever needed. It was truly a team effort.”

In addition to the regulatory adjustments ABC has made this year in response to the pandemic, the Alcohol Law Enforcement Agency of the Year award also recognized the Bureau’s work in other areas including:

  • Partnering with the Virginia Department of Health to ensure ABC licensed establishments are complying with COVID-19 mitigation regulations and taking administrative enforcement action in instances where the business failed to comply with local health permit requirements.
  • Implementing a regulatory framework in a matter of weeks to assess and collect taxes for nearly 10,000 skills-based gaming machines at ABC licensed establishments. This included hiring specialized personnel to administer the program, creating new forms, policies and procedures, and training special agents on the inspection of these machines.
  • Facilitating virtual training to sworn and non-sworn personnel in compliance with state requirements.
  • Promoting opportunities to join ABC’s Bureau of Law Enforcement in a “Come Work with Us” recruitment video highlighting the day-to-day experience of special agents. The Bureau has recruited 11 new special agents this year and is on track to fill remaining vacancies by year-end. In May, the video received a Capital Award of Merit for social media from the Richmond Public Relations Society of America.

This is the third time Virginia ABC has received NLLEA’s Alcohol Law Enforcement Agency of the Year award. The Bureau previously won this award in 2017 and 2002.

Virginia ABC’s special agents are ABC law educators and regulators, working directly with approximately 19,000 licensed businesses to address non-compliance issues and reduce criminal activities involving alcohol. These agents also initiate public safety investigations following incidents at licensed establishments, which involve assisting and cooperating with local law enforcement agencies, civic leagues, residents, businesses and other community stakeholders.

All ABC special agents are sworn Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services certified law enforcement officers within the Bureau, which earned reaccreditation from the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission in January 2020 and met every standard of compliance during its assessment.

The Bureau also includes licensing, compliance and records management staff who perform duties such as collecting Virginia state taxes, processing invoices and renewals, and informing and interacting with alcohol manufacturers, importers and distributors.


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