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Virginia lawmakers advance bill on police misconduct

August 25, 2020 GMT
Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, pauses from a virtual meeting of the House Public Safety committee as he sits under a tree in his backyard in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. All House of Delegates meetings are now virtual, while the Virginia Senate is meeting in person at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, pauses from a virtual meeting of the House Public Safety committee as he sits under a tree in his backyard in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. All House of Delegates meetings are now virtual, while the Virginia Senate is meeting in person at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia lawmakers on Tuesday advanced legislation designed to make it easier to decertify police officers who commit misconduct and make it more difficult for them to get hired by other police departments.

The House Public Safety Committee approved a bill that would require sheriffs and police chiefs to notify the state Criminal Justice Services Board within 48 hours of becoming aware that any of their officers have been fired for misconduct. It would also require the board to initiate decertification proceedings against the officers.

Del. Marcus Simon, the chief patron of the bill, said the legislation is aimed at making it “less difficult to get rid of officers who don’t belong in the profession and to keep them from bouncing around.” He said that officers who are about to be terminated often resign first to avoid a formal finding of misconduct, then seek work with another police department.

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“We want to stop the revolving door to stop police officers from going from department to department,” Simon said.

The legislation also would require sheriffs and police chiefs to notify the board and a civilian review panel — if there is one in that locality — if any officers have received three complaints of excessive force in the previous five years. Simon said that provision would act as an “early warning system” to detect a pattern that requires further investigation. Any recommendations made by the civilian panel concerning such complaints against officers would be forwarded to the state board.

The bill now moves to the Appropriations Committee, one of dozens of bills being considered by the legislature in a special session. The session is focused on addressing both the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and widespread calls for police and criminal justice reforms following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Also Tuesday, the Senate clerk told lawmakers that Republican Sen. Bryce Reeves had tested positive for the coronavirus and will be in quarantine for two weeks. He is the first state lawmaker to test positive for the virus since the special session started last week.

The Senate is holding its floor sessions in person at the Science Museum of Virginia, with lawmakers spread out and wearing masks. The House has chosen to do all of its committee and floor sessions virtually.

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AP Writer Alan Suderman contributed to this report.

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