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Take a fresh look at consolidating state law enforcement agencies.
Friday, August 2, 2013
Virginia’s Senate wasted no time last session tossing aside a good government bill that proposed a study of reorganizing all state law enforcement agencies under the Virginia State Police.
News last month of the big sparkling water bust in Charlottesville in April — a dark comedy of errors that might have ended tragically — should cause Rules Committee members to take up the bill again.
The story that Alcoholic Beverage Control officers had terrified three University of Virginia sorority roommates on a cookie-dough-and-ice-cream run to the grocery store casts doubt on the professionalism of the agency’s law enforcement bureau.
Sen. Creigh Deed’s bill, filed last session as SJ 290, proposed a Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study on consolidating state law enforcement agencies to ensure consistency, fairness and accountability.
State police are reviewing the Charlottesville incident that landed Elizabeth Daly in jail overnight and much of the next day for trying to drive away from plainclothes ABC officers, whom she did not recognize as such, after one pulled a gun and another tried to break a window of her SUV with a flashlight.
Daly was charged with three felonies, later dropped by the local prosecutor.
All because the ABC agents had wrongly suspected the three young women might have made an underage purchase of a case of beer, which proved to be sparkling water destined for a charity event.
An investigation by The Daily Progress newspaper in Charlottesville, published last week, found records indicating the agency has, at times, violated its own policies without serious repercussions.
Most germane to the storm of criticism that followed Daly’s arrest, though, was the newspaper’s account of how Frank Monahan — a decorated, 27-year veteran of the Richmond Police Department — was thwarted in his efforts to change the bureau’s culture after taking over as director in 2005. His policies on police conduct and use of force were met with resistance.
“Supervisors in the bureau chafed at what insiders described as Monahan’s by-the-book approach and his demands for accountability,” the newspaper reported. “About two years ago, he was moved to an administrative job and replaced by Shawn Walker, a former campus police officer.”
Accountability is the necessary curb on police power in a free and orderly society.
Come January, when the General Assembly reconvenes, the Senate Rules Committee should pull Deeds’ bill from whatever dust bin it landed in and restore it to life.
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