A Look at the Policing Reforms Moving Forward at the General Assembly

Oct 5, 2020

Lawmakers in Richmond are moving forward with a sweeping package of new laws aimed at reforming how policing works in Virginia.

Civilian oversight of police departments. Cracking down on excessive use of force. Limitations on no-knock warrants. Sensitivity training. These are all bills that have now been approved by the House and Senate, leading Republican Senator Siobhan Dunnavant of Henrico County to say this on the Senate floor.

“I’m quite convinced that perhaps the Senate needs some sensitivity training and that there’s an inherent bias that I’m hearing, using some of the language we’ve heard, towards our police force,” says Dunnavant.

Senator Mamie Locke is a Democrat from Hampton who has been overseeing the effort to reform police in Virginia, and she says Republicans should be sensitive to the reason why these issues are being debated in the special session.

“We’re here wanting to talk about issues of equality. We’re here because we’re interested in talking about issues of justice," she says. "I’m concerned that there’s a lack of sensitivity on the part of some of our colleagues here on the floor."

Many of the policing reform bills have differences between the House version and the Senate version, and those’ll need to be resolved behind closed doors in conference committees. Then the General Assembly will have to vote on them again before they go to the governor’s desk. That means none of these measures will become law until early next year, when lawmakers will already be back in Richmond for their next session.

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