All over America, there are efforts to change law enforcement. In some cities, there has been an open effort to defund the police. In other areas, those efforts have taken the form of some insisting that money be shifted from law enforcement to support social services.
Not to be outdone, some cities in Virginia have looked at these efforts. In the General Assembly, Lee Carter (Democrat, Manassas) proposed that funding in Virginia be cut a full 25%. This was so blatant that his idea got no traction even in his own party.
Overall, the Democrats who control both the House and Senate have been more finessed in their effort to deal with what they perceive as problems that require major changes. Republicans understand that sometimes there are times in which police have overstepped the law. In those cases, leadership should deal with the problem. We are united in believing that the right solution is to get rid of the occasional bad apple rather than condemning all that wear the uniform.
Consider some of the following actions that have been before us in the governor’s special session.
In Milwaukee, the George Floyd case brought to light that an officer had 17 complaints against him for excessive force. In each case, the police union used their power to keep him on the job. I cosponsored legislation that would not allow unions to protect bad behavior. On a party-line vote that bill was rejected. Instead, the Democrats did pass a number of bills that will demoralize officers and make it harder for law enforcement to protect law abiding citizens.
They passed legislation that will allow communities to create Civil Review Boards. These appointed boards will have the power to investigate, discipline or fire officers. The problem is that they will not have experience in investigation, therefore, they are likely to make decisions based on emotion and news coverage rather than fact. They will never, in most cases, have faced a life or death crisis in which a decision must be made in a split second. They will be sitting safely around a table using twenty-twenty hindsight.
They also passed a proposal that reduces the penalty for assaulting an officer. Currently, this is a felony. The new law would make it a misdemeanor in many cases. The Democrats are doing this in a year in which Antifa and other rioters are throwing human waste at officers.
Still another bill would bar localities from buying surplus equipment from the military that might be needed in unique times, like this year, when rioters turned violent. Likewise, they passed legislation that bars law enforcement from using safer munitions as a non-lethal means of controlling rioters. Tear gas and rubber bullets are better than live fire.
They will allow those in prison to be released after serving only a portion of their sentence. The original plan was to include all prisoners. After criticism, they eliminated murderers from earning early release. Likewise, they gave the governor’s parole board the sole power to release prisoners that supposedly are terminally ill. The public will be powerless to correct this if the parole board lets out a prisoner improperly, as they have done several times in recent months.
Where does this leave our loyal law enforcement officers?
Quite simply, many who have served the state and our localities are now questioning if they should continue to serve if they have lost the respect of so many in the state. Currently, we are losing, mostly to retirement, twice as many troopers as we can train replacements for. This will happen at the local levels as we move forward. Those leaving are the most experienced officers. It will take time for those that replace them to be trained and gain the wisdom we are losing.
Taxpayers will be additionally burdened. The cost of hiring and training is expensive. Finding additional social services employees will be difficult and will require additional training.
Our communities will be less safe. Some households can protect their families. Others, such as aged parents and grandparents, will be at the mercy of those who choose to rob or assault them. Domestic disputes will become more deadly while waiting for social services to arrive.