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Virginia passes police reform, no-knock warrant bills in wake of Taylor death

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Democrats in the Virginia Senate have achieved many key points in their legislative agenda, with the passage of 11 of 12 bills that overhaul police practices.

Protesters gather last month at Times Square to demand the arrest of the officers responsible for the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

One of the bills includes a ban of no-knock warrants, written in the wake of the March 13 police shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, who was killed by Louisville Police officers executing a no-knock warrant on her apartment.

“Policing is one of the most dangerous jobs a public servant can have, and I want to keep them and our community safe at all costs by banning no-knock warrants,” said Delegate Lashrecse Aird, its patron, after a Sept. 4 House of Delegates vote. “I don’t expect those who have never experienced racial injustices to understand what eradicating it looks like. But as we continue to strive to achieve racial justice and equity by right-sizing our practices and processes in policing, contrary to the belief of some, I implore you that passing this bill will add to accomplishing that.”

Only one bill was defeated: A measure that would have allowed victims to sue the police if an officer failed to intervene when a victim was deprived of their rights by another officer. It lost by a single vote.

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The passed bills do the following:

  1. Ban sexual relations between officers and arrestees.
  2. Eliminate minor pretexts for traffic stops.
  3. Codify the ability of prosecutors to dismiss charges.
  4. Ban no-knock search warrants.
  5. Require any officer to report the misconduct of another.
  6. Require police to stop the use of excessive force by another officer.
  7. Allow the decertification of an officer who is fired or resigns due to violation of law or departmental policies and procedures or during an internal investigation.
  8. Ban the use of chokeholds.
  9. Expand the definition of hate crimes to include false 911 calls or reports to police made on the basis of race, religious conviction, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, color or national origin.
  10. Strengthen the review of employment records before an officer is hired.
  11. Standardize training for officers.

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The state’s Democratic majority leader, Charniele L. Herring, said the bills’ goals are to prevent tragedies from happening.

“This is a time when we can turn the crisis into something good,” Herring said of the legislation.

Virginia lawmakers have been in a special general assembly session via teleconference since August due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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