VACP Positions on Police Reform Priorities
The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police has been at the forefront of professional leadership and police reform since our inception. A key component of professional leadership is recognizing when our profession can improve. We understand the pain in our communities and share our commitment to professional and compassionate policing.
On June 9, 2020, the VACP published “Recommendations to Move Virginia Law Enforcement Forward”. These recommendations include incentivizing law enforcement accreditation, an improved decertification process, strengthening hiring standards for law enforcement officers, funding for better law enforcement response to people with mental illness, suggestions for robust data collection on traffic stops, cautions regarding the unionization of police officers, and support for recruiting and compensating quality law enforcement officers. We oppose legislation that would reduce accountability for criminal conduct.
There are a number of proposals being supported by multiple entities to pursue police reform that we support. There are even more that we simply cannot support and strongly oppose. We have produced a document outlining nearly 40 key proposals and the VACP's position on each.
The VACP strongly opposes:
- Ending Qualified Immunity and Making Changes to Sovereign Immunity. Our officers are not protected by an impenetrable blanket of immunity that automatically insulates them from acts not within policy or those deemed criminal. Our officers often operate in the space of split-second decisions. Eliminating qualified immunity will force our officers to either make poor decisions or worse, make no decisions. Not only will this put our officers at an incredible risk for bodily harm, it will decrease the safety and security of our communities by having law enforcement officers who are afraid to perform their duties for lack of support. (An article on "The Complexities of Qualified Immunity" was just published in IACP's The Police Chief magazine. And attorney Eric Daigle recently conducted a free webinar titled "Qualified Immunity – What the Public Needs to Know" – view the recording HERE. )
- “De-felonizing” Assaults on law enforcement officers. In a time where anger, violence and animosity directed towards law enforcement is at unprecedented levels, we should be doing more to protect officers instead of sending a message that assaulting them is not a serious offense. We also need to recognize this is not just an assault on the individual officer, but an assault on our entire judicial system and rule of law. We fear that a change in this statute will further empower those who are already predisposed to assault law enforcement officers.
Virginia has almost 20,000 sworn officers serving communities through municipal police agencies, sheriff's offices, state and campus police agencies and special authority police. We are extremely concerned that passing these two proposals will result in a mass exodus of good officers from this profession. This also will make recruitment of highly qualified candidates nearly impossible in the future. With an average starting salary hovering in the mid $40k range, who would want to do this job? Many agencies already are experiencing resignations or early retirements due to this fear.
We look forward to working with the General Assembly and the Governor's Office to pass reforms that are evidence-based and fiscally responsible. We will continue to develop our positions and offer solutions that are in the best interests of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
On behalf of the VACP Executive Board and our members,
Dana G. Schrad, Executive Director