Youngkin advances law enforcement standards delayed since 2021
The regulations expand the reasons law enforcement officers can lose certification for misconduct.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office has advanced temporary regulations meant to hold law enforcement officers accountable that are slated to go into effect in March, more than two years after state law required them to be in place. The delay appeared to be at least partially related to the administration’s so-far unsuccessful effort to revise the standards behind closed doors.
The regulations were required under a law passed by state Democrats in 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Among other provisions, it required a workgroup to develop new standards for law enforcement officers. The proposed regulations they developed expand the reasons officers can be decertified, like tampering with evidence or witnesses.
State law required the regulations to be in place by December 2021. But the pandemic delayed the workgroup that drafted the rules, which were posted to the state website in August 2022. The regulations then stalled for more than 500 days at the secretary of public safety and homeland security’s office without any explanation.
Last month, after VPM News reported on the delay, three top Democratic lawmakers — Speaker of the House Don Scott (D–Portsmouth), Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell (D–Fairfax) and Senate caucus chairperson Mamie Locke (D–Hampton) — wrote to Secretary of Public Safety Terrance Cole asking for an explanation.
In a letter last week, Cole said his predecessor, Bob Mosier, edited the regulations with a smaller group after the Department of Planning and Budget flagged potential issues with the proposal. The DPB is an executive branch agency whose director was appointed by Youngkin in 2022.
According to Cole, the DPB was concerned about “the lack of clarity regarding the use of ‘serious misconduct’ throughout the regulation, insufficient satisfaction of due process procedural requirements, and the stakeholder representatives on the workgroup not meeting the statutory requirements for eligibility.”
“Given these issues, former Secretary Mosier worked with a subset of members of the workgroup to craft an amendment to the regulation to address some of these concerns,” Cole wrote.
It’s not clear who was in Mosier’s “subset” group, what they discussed or when the discussions took place. Unlike the full group, there are no agendas or minutes listed for the group on Townhall, the state’s website for board and commission meetings.
But for reasons the letter doesn’t explain, Mosier’s edits weren’t taken up. In the end, the proposed regulations approved by Cole last week and Youngkin on Tuesday are the ones drafted by the original workgroup.
Youngkin’s spokesperson, Christian Martinez, didn’t respond to questions about the delay. The administration did not respond to a separate request for a copy of a memo cited by Cole in his letter or to provide Mosier’s revised standards.
The emergency regulations will open for online public comment between Feb. 12 and March 13, before going into effect March 14. But because the regulations were passed on an “emergency” basis, they will expire in September 2025 and be replaced by permanent rules.
Claire Gastañaga, a former chief deputy attorney general for the state who followed the regulatory process, said law enforcement played a dominant role in drafting the emergency regulations despite language in the 2020 law calling for a majority of members to come from other backgrounds, including victims of crime and civil rights advocates.
She said the Youngkin administration hadn’t been transparent about why the regulations were held up.
“This is all about people trying to delay the inevitable,” Gastañga said.