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Another Bill to “Police the Police” Moves Through VA Legislature

Police car
A photo of police in Richmond in 2012. (Photo: Edward Kimmel/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Lawmakers in the Virginia House approved legislation Wednesday that would require law enforcement officers to render aid to someone who has a life-threatening injury or condition and report to supervisors any misconduct they witnessed from their fellow officers, including bias-based profiling. The bill also expands the definition of bias-based profiling to include sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Officers who violate these conditions could be fired or demoted. 

“You shouldn’t be covering up bad acts, severe acts, wrongdoing that’s not technical or minimal by your fellow officer,” said Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria), who introduced the bill. Levine was speaking during a hearing of a House Public Safety panel last week. 

Lawmakers approved a similar bill this summer during the special session that requires officers to intervene if they see a colleague engaged in unlawful or excessive force. 

Vee Lamnek, director of Equality Virginia, testified in favor of Levine’s bill last week, noting that LGBTQ people experience an increased rate of violence and harassment from law enforcement officers. The effect is amplified for LGBTQ people of color. Transgender women are six times more likely to endure police violence than cisgender people. 

“Many Black, transgender women are confronted by law enforcement for simply walking while trans,” they said.

Opponents of the bill say while they agree that law enforcement should not discriminate against anyone, the bill is too subjective and would be difficult to apply and enforce. 

Chief Maggie DeBoard, president of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police said the bill is unnecessary and largely redundant. 

“Law enforcement officers already have to cooperate and are compelled to give statements during internal investigations,” she said. 

The bill passed the House on a vote of 57-42 and is now headed to the Senate.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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