Richmond, Virginia – Robert Barnette, President of the Virginia State Conference (VSC) of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is calling for meaningful legislation during this Special Session of the General Assembly that will address needed police and criminal justice reform and address the effects of COVID-19. Virginians deserve and require a system that is just and equitable. Virginia is tackling the challenges of an historic pandemic, that has exposed the institutional and systemic racism throughout the criminal justice system. COVID-19 is affecting vulnerable communities in unprecedented ways and we must be responsible in responding to the crisis.
“It is imperative that the Governor’s call for a Special Session to address police reform and criminal justice issues does just that in a meaningful way that ensures equity and transparency in our criminal justice system. The Virginia State Conference of the NAACP will settle for nothing less than a ban on chokeholds and strangle-holds, an end to no-knock warrants, ending qualified immunity, sentencing reform, and establishing Civilian Review Boards with Subpoena power. Our stance on these issues is firm. These are a few of our top priorities, but also issues related to the effects of COVID-19 must also be addressed. For far too long, the Commonwealth has funded injustice, it is now time that justice be funded.” states Robert Barnette, President.
Nationally, the NAACP is mandating police and criminal justice reform. The VSC NAACP has long advocated in our units across the Commonwealth, needed changes to make our criminal justice system work for everyone regardless of race or socio-economic status. We cannot allow the injustices and inequities to continue.
Police Accountability, Training and Transparency
- Statewide Officer Database that prohibits the hiring of officers with criminal charges or policy violations from being hired
- Comprehensive Reporting by all law enforcement agencies to include Use of Force data including disaggregated self-identified racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender identity data
- Mandatory recertification
- Standardizing and enhancing training for all police academies
- Recertification credentials may be denied for police officers if determined that their use of deadly force was unwarranted
- Reform FOIA regulations to remove restrictions on releasing data on all officers with disciplinary actions and complaints filed against them Criminal Justice Reform
- Ending Qualified Immunity
- Establish Civilian Review Boards with Independent Investigation Power and Subpoena Power
- A ban on the use of knee holds and chokeholds as an acceptable practice for police officers
- The Use of Force Continuum for any police department in the country must ensure that there are at least 6 levels of steps, with clear rules on escalation
- Reinstituting Parole
- Establish a statewide Marcus Alert system
- Removal of School Resource Officers
COVID-19 casted a spotlight on the injustices and inequities our communities, particularly communities of color, have endured far too long. The connection between systemic racism and implicit bias to poor health outcomes, low quality of life and limited economic prosperity is clear. We must do whatever possible to ensure our vulnerable communities are given the chance to heal. This can and must be done as a part of our COVID-19 rebuilding response. First, we must admit there is a problem and declare racism as a public health issue and we must also make sure no one is left destitute by implementing/extending safety net programs for food access, eviction moratorium and utility payment assistance. No one should be hungry, no one should be without a home, and no one should be without utility services.
COVID-19 Relief and Protections:
- Implement an Emergency Moratorium and Utilities Repayment Program
- Eviction Moratorium until mortgage free or relief can be implemented
- Hazard Pay and PPE for Essential Workers including teachers, support staff and other school employees as essential workers if schools reopen and they must come in person
- Ensure transit workers are protected and have access to proper PPE during shifts
- Identify, Map, and Define vulnerable “hotspots” based on risk, demographic, socio-economic, and vulnerability data throughout the commonwealth
- Continue using State Feeding Task Force to coordinate the implementation and expansion of food and nutrition programs during COVID -19
- Allocate CARES Act, other emergency stimulus funding and all subsequent stimulus packages to support food distribution to low-income and other vulnerable communities which extends at a minimum of six months beyond the end of the pandemic emergency
- Allocate CARES Act, other emergency stimulus funding and all subsequent stimulus packages to protect against utility disruptions which extends at a minimum of six months beyond the end of the pandemic emergency
- Efforts to expand access to rural broadband particularly for low-income, the aged, and school children
- Continue zero fare/no fare collection program The VSC applauds the legislation successfully passed to ensure every Virginian could exercise their right to vote. That work must not be jeopardized. Voting Protections
- Pre-paid postage on Vote by Mail Ballots
- Removal of Witness Requirement on Vote by Mail Ballots
- Funding for localities to have drop boxes for Vote by Mail Ballots
Finally, the Commonwealth of Virginia, former home of the confederacy, must acknowledge that racism is rooted in the very systems that provide services to Black Virginians. Over the last three decades, numerous health studies have concluded that a disproportionate impact of health disparities on our community is directly linked to pervasive racism in our systems. The Virginia State Conference implores that racism be declared a public health crisis.