Six Va. Democrats sign on to federal measure.
A broad swath of Democrats in Virginia’s congressional delegation is backing a sweeping police reform bill prompted by nationwide protests against police brutality and racism in the criminal justice system.
The Justice in Policing Act unveiled Monday would limit legal protections for police in the case of misconduct, create a national database of useof-force incidents, and ban the use of chokeholds by police, among other measures. It would not abolish police departments, as some protesters and civil rights groups have demanded.
Its chief sponsors are Rep. Karen Bass of California, head of the Congressional Black Caucus; Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; and Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California.
In Virginia, the legislation is backed by Reps. Don Beyer, D-8th; Gerry Connolly, D-11th; Don McEachin, D-4th, who represents Richmond; and, Bobby Scott, D-3rd. Both of Virginia’s senators, Democrats Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, have also signed onto the bill.
McEachin said in a statement: “We can and must reimagine public safety in America to make our policing systems safer for citizens and hold police officers accountable to the communities they serve, beginning with ensuring that the common-sense policies included in the Justice in Policing Act are adopted by police departments across the country.”
Kaine, a former Richmond mayor and Virginia governor, said in a call with reporters: “As a mayor who worked intimately with a police force, and a governor who worked closely with the Virginia State Police, I know the good, but I also know the many, many serious challenges that have to be addressed to promote meaningful reform.”
Democrats in the Virginia congressional delegation who have not signed on to the bill are Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th; Elaine Luria, D-2nd; and Jennifer Wexton, D-10th.
Spanberger, who represents a swath of the Richmond suburbs and is anticipated to face a heated re-election fight this November, is reviewing the bill and gathering community input, according to a spokesman.
No Republicans in Virginia’s delegation, or otherwise, have signed on to the bill.
The legislation would lower the standard used to prosecute police misconduct from “willful” to “reckless.” It would also call on police departments to use existing federal funding to ensure officers have and use body-worn cameras, among other provisions.
Passage of the legislation in the GOP-controlled Senate is unlikely. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,
R-Ky., said he is considering legislation that would emanate from the GOP in the Senate.
Also Tuesday, Kaine said he is backing a bill from Booker calling for a study of reparations to African Americans for the ongoing legacy of slavery.
Kaine told reporters Tuesday that after slavery was abolished in the U.S., governments were “never held accountable” for the longstanding practice with multigenerational impact.
Last week, Kaine also announced he would urge his colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee to block the use of military funds or personnel against people engaged in protesting pushing back against President Donald Trump, who has threatened military force against violent protests.
“This is something that no one would have thought to introduce last year or any other year I’ve been in the Armed Services Committee. No one would have contemplated that a president would use force against peaceful protesters,” Kaine said during the call with reporters.
“If there was a slam dunk that should unify us, I would think it would be that.”
McEachin issued a similar call to fellow lawmakers in the House.