As week two, closing in on three, of the General Assembly’s special session is underway, Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, has filed three pieces of legislation focusing on public safety and law enforcement — areas Gov. Ralph Northam wanted addressed.
The special session was called to order on Aug. 18 to address the biennial budget, as well as Northam’s proposed measures to advance equity, reform policing and protect the safety, health and welfare of Virginians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bell was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.
House Bill 5133 focuses on the employment and decertification of police officers, deputy sheriffs and jail officers and the disclosure of information relating to an arrest or prosecution to any sheriff, chief of police, director or chief executive who employees deputy sheriffs or law enforcement officers.
Co-sponsors of the legislation include Dels. Todd Gilbert, R-Mount Jackson, Chris Runion, R-Bridgewater, and Tony Wilt, R-Broadway.
As stated in the bill, if a police officer, deputy sheriff or jail officer was previously employees by another law enforcement agency or jail, the hiring law enforcement agency or jail can request from all prior employing agencies within the last two years information on arrests or prosecutions, civic suit on employment or performance of duties and reports on criminal conduct or use of excessive force.
The bill would also require no police officer, deputy sheriff or jail officer to be employed by a hiring agency until the requested information is received from all prior employing agencies in the commonwealth.
When it comes to dismissing a law enforcement officer or jail officer because of the use of force, the bill would require the sheriff, chief of police or agency administrator to notify the Criminal Justice Services Board in writing within 48 hours after becoming aware of the incident. It also includes any officer who has resigned due to a complaint against the employee for the use of force.
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Public Safety, along with HB 5135, which would require all law enforcement agencies having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations to operate and use body-worn camera systems.
It would also require officers equipped with a body-worn camera system to activate the camera during every “law-enforcement-related encounter with the public, call for service, investigative or pedestrian stop, motor vehicle stop and any other law-enforcement-related action or service, provided that such activation does not interfere with officer safety or the safety of others.”
Lastly, HB 5134 would require a law enforcement officer who witnesses another officer engaging or attempting to engage in the unlawful use of force against another person to intervene and end the use or attempted use of force. It would also require the officer who witnesses the use of force by another officer to report the incident.
If an individual is injured as a result of use of force, an officer will be required to provide aid.
If the bill were to pass, a violation would result in disciplinary action by means of dismissal, demotion, suspension or transfer of the officer who engaged in use of force.
The legislation was referred to the House Committee for Courts of Justice, where it waits to be heard, along with HB 5133 and HB 5135.