Virginia lawmakers meet to discuss police training and mandatory minimum sentencing

Virginia State Capitol
Virginia State Capitol(WDBJ)
Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 3:00 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia House of Delegates Joint Committee Meeting of Courts of Justice and Public Safety Committees put the spotlight on police training and mandatory minimum sentencing.

"What are you suggesting that we change moving forward? I didn't hear that. I saw a very robust kind of like I could have gone through the Virginia code and kind of looked at what you presented just now. I want to know exactly what are you doing to respond to the current events right now where folks are clambering for change," said Del. Don Scott, (D) 80th District.

The director of Virginia’s Department of Criminal Justice Services told lawmakers there’s no standard training curriculum for cadet’s at any of the state’s 39 academies but that’s changing. A new plan could be approved and implemented by the end of next year.

"We do feel it's imperative that the training standards reflect the public's desires for what the content of future generations of law enforcement are trained on," said Shannon Dion, Department of Criminal Justice Services Director.

Lawmakers also got an earful about mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines and how reform advocates say they hurt more than help.

"There are far too many mandatory minimums. Today as many states rethink their system of incarcerations, kill back their mandatories and depopulate their prisons, Virginia has not taken any of these steps," said Ashley Nellis with The Sentencing Project.

But not everyone agrees.

"We're not saying that these cases that involve mandatory minimums aren't already illegal obviously they already are, the question is when the judges get them wrong," said Del. Jason Miyares, (R) 82nd District.

Civilian review boards over police were another hot topic. The Legal Aid Justice Center recommends lawmakers give localities the power to establish those boards, give them subpoena powers and final disciplinary power in some cases.

A final hearing is set for August 6, 2020 at 10 am. That will deal with no-knock warrants and use of force.

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