Category Archives: Crime , corrections and law enforcement

Criminal Justice Reform Summary

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Now that I have some time and before it slips completely out of our minds, this is a good opportunity to review the final criminal justice reforms enacted by the recently-concluded special session of the General Assembly. (For those of you for whom the special session has slipped mercifully from your consciousness and you do not want to be reminded of it, feel free to skip this post.)

I have updated the scorecard I previously created and you can find it here to peruse at your leisure. As a reminder, I compiled this list of proposals and issues from the agendas announced during the summer by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and the Senate Democratic caucus, along with a few other major items that surfaced in the session. The items that did not pass, or for which legislation was not introduced, are shown in red. Continue reading

Let’s “Reimagine” Public Safety Built around Involved Fathers

Pastor Belinda Baugh addressing community residents in a “City of Hope” march in Petersburg: Fathers, your children need you! Photo credit: Belinda Baugh

by James A. Bacon

When you ask a group of politicians, activists and intellectuals to put together a plan to “reimagine” public safety, you get a report like the one just issued by a City of Richmond task force. It calls for measures such as routing many 9-1-1 calls to mental health and conflict-resolution professionals instead of the police, reallocating dollars from police to social services, connecting youth with community resources, and creating an Office of Restorative Justice and Community Safety.

More money. More programs. More jobs for bureaucrats and activists. It’s basically the same failing approach that inner cities have tried to address poverty and crime since the inauguration of the Great Society in the 1960s.

One wonders if the authors talked to anyone besides other politicians, activists and intellectuals… if, for example, they talked to people akin to those quoted in this Richmond Times-Dispatch article about Petersburg. Richmond is not Petersburg, of course, but the two cities are sociologically similar. They both have large populations of poor African-Americans concentrated in largely segregated neighborhoods. Petersburg has the highest per-capita murder rate of any jurisdiction in Virginia; Richmond has the third highest. Continue reading

A Curious Concern for Criminals

by Kerry Dougherty

For more than 20 years Virginians didn’t have to worry about their parole board springing dangerous criminals. The revolving prison doors had been shut tight by Gov. George Allen’s Truth-in-Sentencing legislation in 1995.

In essence, that law meant that a 20-year sentence guaranteed that the criminal would actually serve 20 years, with just short reductions for good behavior. A life sentence meant that the criminal would die behind bars.

The parole board was a vestige of a different time. Its members went through the motions of parole hearings for those who had been sentenced before 1995. Few gained parole.

That changed with Gov. Ralph Northam. Using COVID-19 as an excuse, his parole board this year began energetically releasing criminals. Bad ones. And in their frenzy to spring some of the commonwealth’s most violent criminals the board apparently ignored rules that required prosecutors get a 21-day heads-up before criminals were freed. Oh, and in some cases, victims’ family members weren’t notified either. Continue reading

Mark Herring’s Worst Thanksgiving –  Conspiracy Against EVMS may lead to Federal Involvement

by James C. Sherlock

Sentara CEO Howard Kern

Scandals are sometimes overrated. Not this one.

I have reported here before on the strange case of the EVMS-ODU merger. I posted here on Nov 1, Nov 2  and Nov 3 with my own concerns on the subject. Many of my assessments came to fruition.

On November 13 and 20, the Checks and Balances Project picked up the story and took it to the next level. The quotations below are from the November 20 story.

I am not an attorney, but I will project today the significant legal jeopardy into which the process may have put the group that got together to coordinate and plan that merger without EVMS participation. 

Not to mention the legal and personnel mess that it puts on the desk of Virginia’s Attorney General and the Governor. 

Continue reading

Anti-Marijuana Laws Are Racist… and So Is the Marijuana Industry!

Attorney General Mark Herring is full of praise for the just-released Joint Legislative and Audit Review Commission report on marijuana legalization. As he notes in a press release today, criminalization of marijuana disproportionately impacts African-Americans and other Virginians of color.

But the press release makes an observation that I’ve never seen before:

The marijuana industry is predominantly controlled by non-people of color and Virginia must give serious consideration to how to make the industry more equitable.

Nationwide, 81% of cannabis business owners are white, compared to 5.7 % Hispanic/Latino, and 4.3% black owners, according to Al Dia. “The Black community essentially created a highly valuable industry,” says writer Ericka Conant. Hispanics, she could have added but didn’t, perfected the art of large-scale marijuana horticulture and built the international distribution channels to meet U.S. demand. But those sneaky whites figured out how to legalize it, license it, and dominate legal production and distribution.

Wow! Pass the popcorn. I’m going to enjoy watching how this one plays out.

— JAB

A Big Election Day for Marijuana

by DJ Rippert

Rolling stoned gathers no moss. Marijuana reform has been gaining momentum in the U.S. since California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Today 36 states have either enacted medical marijuana access laws or are in the process of implementing such laws. In 2012 Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults. Today, 15 states have enacted recreational use laws or are in the process of doing so.

Continue reading

Fifty Pounds of Weed in Arlington = Probation?

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

by DJ Rippert

This landing may get bumpy. In late 2018 a chap was on a plane that landed at Reagan National Airport. He undoubtedly had the usual tools of travel — toothbrush, shave kit and clean socks.  However, he also had 50 pounds of marijuana and 400 cartridges of hashish oil. Perhaps he got on the wrong plane expecting to land in Denver. The MWAA Police met him at baggage claim, offered to help him with his luggage and cuffed him up.

As arlnow.com reports, “Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and the attorney representing the alleged drug carrier agreed that the defendant would plead guilty to two felony charges and be placed on probation. After completing the probation and 200 hours of community service, he would be able to withdraw the pleas to the felony charges and instead plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges while having a $100 fine imposed but then suspended.” Continue reading

Would a Mobile Crisis Team Have Saved Marcus-David Peters?

Image of Marcus-David Peters projected onto the Lee Monument.

by James A. Bacon

Marcus-David Peters, fatally shot in 2018 by a Richmond police officer while in the midst of a mental health crisis, has become an icon for criminal justice reform in Virginia. Protesters occupying the area around the Lee statue on Monument Avenue erected a sign (since removed) designating Lee Circle as Marcus-David Peters Circle. Lawmakers named the “Marcus-David Alert” bill after him, requiring all police departments by 2026 to dispatch mental health professionals to emergency situations involving people in mental distress.

The story of how Peters, an unarmed black man, met his demise is a tragic one, and tales like it are all too common. Many police-civilian encounters ending in violence involve people suffering from mental breakdowns. It makes intuitive sense to use trained mental-health professionals to talk them down from the ledge, so to speak, rather than relying on police officers trained primarily in the use of force.

But a close look at how the Peters tragedy unfolded raises questions. Given the rapidity with which events unfolded, would a “mobile crisis team” have made a difference? Would putting mental health professionals into the front line of law enforcement have put their lives in danger? Continue reading

Who Owns the Streets?

How the culture wars are waged these days: Passenger in a Trump Train car records a protester running through the street on Monument after after snatching a yellow insignia from one of the cars.

by James A. Bacon

A rag-tag assortment of leftists, anarchists and Black Lives Matter protesters have occupied Lee Circle on Richmond’s Monument Avenue for months now. Mayor Levar Stoney has given them de facto control over the small but prominent piece of real estate, and police have refrained from responding to any but the most urgent of calls by neighbors complaining about graffiti, firecrackers and gunshots at night, or people defecating in their yards. Now a new question arises: Who controls Monument Avenue itself?

Michael Dickenson, a candidate for Richmond City Council, put that question to the test yesterday. He organized a “Trump Train,” a caravan of of cars honking horns and waving Trump regalia similar to other pro-Trump manifestations around the country. He promoted the event on social media, and the opposition found out about it. When Dickenson’ Trump Train approached Lee Circle in the late afternoon, Leftists poured into the street, forced the cars to slow to a crawl, and snatched insignia from the cars.

Claims vary crazily about how many cars were in the train — from 15 to 350, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Whatever the precise number, lefties accused the Trumpsters of using pepper spray and trying to run people down. Trumpsters accused Lefties of beating on the cars, throwing a liquor bottle and in one case breaking a window. One gunshot reportedly was fired and a unoccupied vehicle struck by a bullet, but no one was injured. Continue reading

All Public Order, Like All Politics, Is Local

Richmond Riots – credit JAMES H. WALLACE/TIMES-DISPATCH

by James C. Sherlock

Progressives everywhere consider their precious theories more important than actual outcomes. The fact that people get hurt along the way is part of the price they willingly pay for political power.

To paraphrase James Lindsay:

In fact, you only need to know two key ideas: critical theory is radically skeptical that objective truth exists and can even approximately be known, and it forwards the competing view that knowledge is just an assertion of politics by other means. 

That is, the key of critical theory as a social philosophy is that whether a claim is true or not doesn’t matter and misses the point. All that matters is how that claim can be used politically to gain power.

So let’s look at critical race theory in action in public security. Continue reading

The “Rat Pack” Makes the Point

By Peter Galuszka

On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman took the historically enormous step of integrating the U.S. Armed Forces. The Virginia Military Institute, which prides itself on its warrior panache, didn’t get around to that until 1968 and even today there are serious questions about racism at the state-supported school.

The past few days have seen story after story about charges of widespread racism at the school that led to Gov. Ralph Northam, a VMI graduate, ordering an investigation. The school’s superintendent, an 80-year-old retired four-star Army general has resigned.

The Washington Post got big play for its investigative report about the atmosphere in Lexington, where the school is located. Actually, the Roanoke Times first had a story this summer that Black alumni were concerned that racism was getting out of hand. This morning, the Post has a story about anonymous posts that VMI students apparently made on Jodel, a Website.

If anything, the posts prove the media’s point. Black athletes are referred to insultingly as “permits” because they are excused from normal military exercise because they work out in sports. They are said to be at VMI because they are not good enough at sports to get into a better college. Continue reading

Senator Warner’s Odd Silence on Violence

Photo credit: Sputnik News

by Emilio Jaksetic

Since the tragic death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 at the hands of a police officer, there have been thousands of (mostly peaceful) demonstrations and hundreds of riots and civil disturbances in towns and cities across the United States. Some took place in Richmond, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Fredericksburg and other Virginia jurisdictions.

Senator Mark Warner, D-VA, issued over 200 press releases between May 25, 2020 and October 22, 2020, covering a wide variety of issues and topics. The releases tell Virginians what he thinks about a wide range of legislation, government activities, issues, and events. But they leave Virginians in the dark about how he sees the many violent civil disturbances that have roiled America.

Since the death of George Floyd, the senator has issued four press releases relating to the civil unrest: Continue reading

Virginia’s Driving-in-the-Dark Bill Is Dead

by Kerry Dougherty

Finally.

A bill so boneheaded that even Gov. Ralph Northam couldn’t sign it.

I’m talking about HB 5058, which contained a driving-in-the-dark measure that would have prevented police from pulling over motorists tooling about at night without headlights, tail lights or brake lights.

You know, those “add ons” for cars that no one really needs.

This bill was intended to get rid of bogus reasons that law enforcement use to pull over drivers: Doodads hanging from a rear-view mirror, for instance. Outdated inspection stickers. Or vehicles that reek of marijuana.

The bill was styled “Marijuana and certain traffic offenses; issuing citations, etc.” and I suspect Democrats in Richmond became giddy at the mere mention of dope and immediately began pumping their little fists in the air. Continue reading

Parole Board Sets Free Another Murderer

Tonya Chapman, former Portsmouth police chief, now chairman of the Virginia Parole Board. Photo credit: Virginian-Pilot

Letter from Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, sent yesterday to Governor Ralph Northam.

Dear Governor Northam,

In August 2019, the Parole Board denied Harry J. Williams, DOC # 1008730, parole. These are the reasons they gave Mr. Williams:

  1. His history of substance abuse.
  2. The serious nature and circumstances of his offense(s).
  3. His prior failure(s) and/or convictions while under community supervision indicated that he was unlikely to comply with conditions of release.

On June 22nd, just ten months later, the Parole Board miraculously concluded these reasons no longer existed, and decided Mr. Williams should be released from prison. Continue reading

Germs, Guns and Schools

by  James A. Bacon

Twenty days into the school year, more than one in five (21.2%) of students in Richmond Public Schools have been chronically absent, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Chronic absenteeism has always been a problem in the school system, but it’s worse in 2020 — up three percentage points from last year.

This data is worth examining for at least two reasons: (1) for what it tells us about unintended consequences of the Richmond district’s approach to handling the epidemic, and (2) for what it reveals about increasing violence in Richmond’s inner city.

The epidemic. Administrators attribute the high absenteeism in part to the virtual instruction and lack of supervision, mainly at the elementary school level, the RTD reports. Said Harry Hughes, RPS chief of schools: “We are operating virtually in the middle of a health pandemic. COVID has exacerbated an existing problem, and made it much worse.” Continue reading