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Democratic Senators Block Republican Effort to Prevent Police from Unionizing

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Members of the General Assembly are about to move forward with landmark legislation to reform policing in Virginia. But, Republican efforts to reduce the influence of police unions have been unsuccessful.

Earlier this year, the new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate opened the door to collective bargaining for employees of local governments. Then the pandemic hit, and all that was delayed until next year. But eventually police officers in Virginia will be able to unionize.

Republican Senator Richard Stuart of Westmoreland County says that could undermine efforts to reform policing. 

“The whole incident that precipitated this national movement where people are protesting and rioting in the streets are because of a cop that couldn’t be fired because of the union,” he says.

Democrats in the Senate rejected a series of Republican amendments to Senator Mamie Locke’s policing reform bill meant to prevent police officers from unionizing. Senator Creigh Deeds is a Democrat from Bath County, and he says the amendments were unnecessary and counterproductive. 

“In Senator Locke’s bill right now are provisions that make sure that cops that are bad, that do bad things; that that record follows them and they are not hired,” explains Deeds.

The policing reform bill now under consideration in the Senate creates statewide professional standards of conduct for police officers, requires de-escalation training and allows for decertification of bad cops.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.