Category Archives: Crime and corrections

Blue Lives Don’t Matter

Newport News police officer Katherine M. “Katie” Thyne, 24, mother of two, and girl’s basketball coach, was killed in January during a traffic stop. In the incident, she was dragged about a block and pinned between the fleeing car and a tree.

by James A. Bacon

Last week Virginia Senate Democrats unveiled a 27-bill package of criminal justice “reforms” they will advance in the special session that Governor Ralph Northam has said he expects to call this August. Some have potential merit, such as a slew of proposals to hold law-enforcement officers accountable for unjustified use of force. But some seem to be scripted to ruin police morale.

The list released by the Senate Dems provides only a bare-bones description of what the initiatives entail. There is no way to know exactly what legislators have in mind until we see the bills. Even so, there’s reason enough to sound the sirens. Bacon’s Rebellion will take a closer look at the more alarming proposals as time permits. For now, I want to focus on one: “defelonizing” assaults on law enforcement officers.

Under current law, anyone convicted of assaulting a law enforcement officer is guilty of a Class 6 felony and subject to a mandatory minimum term of confinement of six months. The proposal would reduce assaults to misdemeanors. Continue reading

Senate Democrat Promises on Police Reform

By Steve Haner

What follows, without edits, is the full list of legislative proposals now endorsed by the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus. With 21 members, if they all show up and vote aye on all of these, they pass in the upcoming special session. Bills would then have to also pass the House of Delegates and be signed by the Governor. This follows up an earlier post by Dick Hall-Sizemore.

  1.  Bringing Equity to Virginia Policing
    ● Prohibit No Knock Warrants (Breonna Taylor)
    ● Ban Sex With Individuals Arrested by Law Enforcement
    ● Prohibit Hiring of Officers Fired or Resigned During Use of Force Investigations
    ● Create a Decertification Procedure for Law Enforcement Officers
    ● Ban chokeholds and strangleholds (George Floyd)
    ● Require Attempts at De-escalation Prior to Use of Force
    ● Require Warnings Before Shots Fired
    ● Require Law Enforcement to Exhaust All Other Means Prior to Shooting
    ● Create Duty to Intervene by Fellow Law Enforcement Officers
    ● Prohibit Shooting at Moving Motor Vehicles
    ● Require Departments to Create a Use of Force Continuum
    ● Require Comprehensive Reporting by All Law Enforcement Agencies Including Use of Force Data
    ● Defelonize Assault on Law Enforcement Officer (Return to Misdemeanor Offense)
    ● Cancel HB599 Funding (Virginia supplemental funding for local police departments) After Local Police Have Disproportionate Use of Force Incidents In their Jurisdiction
  2. Expand Local Authority to Respond to Mental Health and Regulate Law Enforcement
    ● Create Local Authority for a Marcus Alert System – System to Report Acute Mental Health Crises
    ● Create Local Option for Citizen Review Board Empowered to Investigate, Fire and/or Discipline Officers
  3. Restore Courts’ and Prosecutors’ Flexibility to Effect Mercy
    ● Confirm Prosecutors’ Authority to Drop Charges
    ● Enhance Courts’ Ability to Expunge Charges for Dismissed Charges, Substance Convictions and Pardoned Offenses
  4. Reduce Racial Profiling Opportunities for Law Enforcement
    ● Prohibit Searches of Person or Vehicle Based on Odor of Marijuana Without Probable Cause for Other Offenses
    ● Prohibit Stops for Equipment Violations Not Covered by State Vehicle Inspection
    ● Secondary Offense For Dangling Objects, Extinguished Tag Light, Tinted Windows or Loud Exhaust
  5. Restore Equity to the Sentencing Process
    ● Jury Sentencing Only at Option of the Accused
    ● Eliminate Commonwealth’s Right to Demand Jury Trial When Jury Trials Suspended for State of Emergency
    ● Require Agencies to Determine Cost Savings for Introduced Criminal Justice Legislation
  6. Restore Equity to the Virginia Prison System
    ● Allow Earned Sentence Credit for Good Behavior During Prison
    ● Create Discretion for Compassionate Release for Terminally Ill or Permanently Disabled Prisoners

Continue reading

“Bring That Sucker Down Without Anyone Getting Hurt”

Confederate statue in North Carolina

By Peter Galuszka

In a striking sign of the times, Popular Mechanics magazine has published a how-to article regarding removing statues on your own.

The article is titled: “How to Topple a Statue Using Science: Bring that sucker down without anyone getting hurt” by James Stout.

The force need to bring down a controversial statue is not all that great, Stout writes. Most statues are bronze, with an alloy of 90% copper and 10 percent tin with a maximum thickness of 3/16 of an inch. Most people statues weigh 3,500 pounds. One that includes a horse is maybe 7,000 pounds.

For a pure muscle job, you’d need about 70 people and several high-endurance recovery straps. One should be placed across the head. Once in place, you’ll need to break the statue from its base. This can be done by two teams on either side of the statue working a back and forth motion.

As for safety, this isn’t that big a deal as long as you have done the proper geometry.

If you don’t have many protestors, you can do the job using a high temperature approach with home-made thermite. Propane torches are also good. Continue reading

Another Use and Abuse of Statistics…

Sources: Fairfax County Police Department, U.S. Census Bureau

by James A. Bacon

The Fairfax County Police Department publishes a statistical report every year on the police use of force in the county. There were 594 use-of-force incidents reported in 2019, up from 510 the previous year. The publication provides data with minimal commentary.

This is the headline from the Reston Now article summarizing the report: “Fairfax County Police Disproportionately Use Force on Black Individuals.” The headline was backed up by this paragraph:

Black residents were involved in roughly 31 percent of use-of-force incidents, even though they make up a little over 8 percent of the total population. Roughly 48 percent of all use-of-force incidents involved whites, who make up 67 percent of the total population.

By placing the data in the context of the national uproar over the George Floyd killing and calls for police reform, as the story did, Reston Now feeds the standard media Oppression Narrative. But the story left a lot out, which seems to be the usual operating procedure. Cherry pick the facts that support the media narrative, and omit anything that might call it into question. Continue reading

Stop the Problem Before It Starts

by Chris Braunlich

With the General Assembly taking up policing reform in this summer’s special session, there should be at least one bill stopping a problem before it begins.

Most big problems are created by a small number of people. The same is true of police officer transgressions. Most police officers are good police officers, but Derek Chauvin was a bad cop with 18 prior complaints in 19 years at the time he killed George Floyd. His partner, Tou Thao, has six complaints, including an open one at the point he was fired. The head of their police union, Lt. Bob Kroll, is the subject of at least 29 complaints.

Their continued presence was an insult to the more than 680,000 good law enforcement officers who are guardians of our safety, who took the job to serve the public and who put their lives on the line.

Yet, instead of eliminating a narrow source of major abuse, they were allowed to continue their abuse of Minneapolis citizenry. Why?

Increasingly, we can point to provisions commonly found in Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) negotiated between governments and the police union as part of the contract process. The issue has never arisen in Virginia before, because collective bargaining was prohibited. But Governor Ralph Northam has signed into law legislation that could mean local governments and their police unions next year will negotiate the conditions of the disciplinary process against misbehavior by individual police officers. Continue reading

Northam Gets a Couple of Things Right

by James A. Bacon

I do have my issues with Wise King Ralph, but I have to give credit where credit is due. He has done two things right in the past few days. He has given the OK to move to Phase 3 of the COVID-19 lockdown on July 1, and he has refused to buckle under to violent protests in Richmond. Virginia’s capital city will not turn into Portland or Seattle East.

It was not a foregone conclusion that the Governor would accede to a further relaxation of the emergency restrictions promulgated to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus. While Virginia metrics were all heading in the right direction, the national media were in full-blown hysteria mode over a rise in infection rates in other states that had moved to reopen their economies. Even local media, which reported on beach vacationers bringing the coronavirus with them back to the Roanoke region, were sounding the alarm. Indeed, Northam said explicitly that he was paying attention to what was happening in other states.

But in the end, Wise King Ralph did the right thing. Phase 3 represents a big step forward in getting back to normal. The measures it continues to maintain — restrictions on mass gatherings with the potential to turn into super-spreader events — are defensible.

Meanwhile, the Governor, while not exactly posing as Mr. Law and Order, defended city and state police officers who earlier yesterday used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a sit-in outside of Richmond City Hall that was blocking traffic. As The Virginia Mercury put it, Northam expressed “befuddlement” at the ongoing protests against police brutality even though he had promised “future action on police reform and other important equity issues.” Continue reading

The Systemic Racism of Monument Avenue

By Peter Galuszka

Richmond’s grand Monument Avenue, a double lane, tree lined thoroughfare, has been the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter campaign that has focused on the statues of several Confederate figures one the road, including Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis.

All are up for removal, but the same foot-dragging that has for years protected the statues that some consider racist is at work today. Protestors have torn down Davis and have defaced the rest. On Sunday night, they nearly ripped down the Stuart statue as two city council members urged that it be removed on an emergency basis.

Lee’s statue has been ordered down by Gov. Ralph Northam, but the effort has been tied up in lawsuits by several property owners. One claims either that the original deed that gave the state the site for Lee included language that it could not be removed. Other plaintiffs, most anonymous,  claim that removing the statues would hurt their property values and their special tax status.

If anything smacks of white privilege and entitlement, this is it. But for more perspective, this article in The Atlantic neatly sums up the history behind the statues and the Avenue, noting that the issue has everything to do with rewriting Richmond’s history and making a marketing play to sell expensive and exclusive real estate decades after the Confederacy was suppressed. Continue reading

Stoney Proposes Overhaul of Richmond Policing

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

The Richmond Police Department received more than 80,000 calls for service in the first five months of 2020, writes Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney an a Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed. Police respond to every type of crisis, from homelessness to mental health to substance abuse.

“We need officers to respond to violent and criminal acts,” Stoney says. “We cannot expect our police officers to serve as social workers, psychologists, child trauma experts and mental health workers, responding to every noncriminal call for service because America hasn’t properly prioritized other service providers. It does not make our country, or our city safer.”

Now it’s time to “reimagine” public safety, he says. Accordingly, he has created a Task Force on Reimagining Public Safety to come up with actionable steps within 90 days. Measures might include reallocating police funding to allow social workers to respond to non-violent calls, creating a Civilian Review Board to hold officers accountable for misconduct, and using evidence-based policies and practices.

I’m not convinced that the Richmond Police Department is broken. There have been few instances of police brutality, and the RPD has one of the highest murder-clearance rates in the country — a sign that police have a reservoir of trust and good will in the community. Further, I don’t know if these reforms are being driven by the residents of Richmond’s more crime-afflicted neighborhoods or by leftist activists and intellectuals. Still, some ideas may be worth pursuing, even if they come from the Left — at least if executed carefully without wrecking the morale of the police. Continue reading

Coming to a City Near You: Middle-Class Flight

The latest to be vandalized: The Richmond Howitzers Monument.

by James A. Bacon

As the City of Richmond becomes increasingly ungovernable in the face of continued protests and vandalism, a lot of people are saying to themselves, “I’m out of here.” Here’s a prediction: Middle-class flight will become the next big thing.

Richmond, like many other cities around the country, has enjoyed a strong economic revival in recent years. The city offered walkable streets, attractive neighborhoods and a lively cultural scene that attracted many young people. Businesses followed their creative-class employees to downtown, Shockoe Bottom and Scotts Addition. Taxes were higher and schools were problematic, but violent crime rates had fallen and people felt safe. Richmond seemed so much more vibrant and exciting than the suburbs of Henrico and Chesterfield Counties.

Everything has changed. Public order is eroding. As the state capital, Richmond has seen weeks of protests, destruction, and now vandalism unchecked by law enforcement. Yesterday, even though Governor Ralph Northam and Mayor Levar Stoney had proclaimed their intention to remove Civil War statues within the scope of the law, “protesters” couldn’t contain their rage. They tore down a third statue.

Stoney’s response: Fire the police chief.

You won’t see members of the silent majority organizing counter-protests. They won’t even post yard signs, for fear of being vandalized. They’ll just vote with their feet. They’ll sell their houses and move to the suburbs. The ‘burbs may be sterile, but they’re safer. Continue reading

By the Way, Assaults on Virginia Police Officers Surged Last Year


by James A. Bacon

So, the nation is in an uproar again, this time over the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks by a white police officer in Atlanta after Brooks resisted arrest, grabbed the officer’s taser and turned it on him. While this incident, like every other episode fueling the Black Lives Matter movement, occurred outside the Old Dominion, Virginians are wrestling with the same set of issues regarding the police use of force, particularly in their interactions with African-Americans.

Largely missing from the discussion — certainly here in Virginia — are the risks that police officers encounter when dealing with the public. The data shown above, taken from Virginia State Police “Crime in Virginia” reports show dramatic increases in the number of assaults on police officers in 2017 and 2019. Last year, the number of assaults reached 1,939 — by far the greatest number of incidents of any year since the state police settled upon consistent reporting methodology in 2000. Continue reading

No, Northam Does Not Support Police Defunding

by James A. Bacon

The idea of defunding the police in Virginia comes close to being clinically insane. Only someone suffering from mental psychosis would seriously propound it. Whatever police abuses may occur in Virginia — and they are relatively few — they are trivial to compared what would occur in a state of lawlessness and anarchy. So, the question arises, did Governor Ralph Northam literally call for defunding the police yesterday?

The Republican Party of Virginia blasted out a press release accusing Northam of endorsing the “Defund the Police” movement that “has become a mainstream Democrat litmus test.” The statement then cited the following quote:

When we talk about defunding, I wouldn’t look at it as defunding. I would look at it as how do we best prioritize the funding that we have.

I would not consider the statement a model of cogent expression of thought. But it’s clear, if not from the statement itself then from the context of what else he said, that the Governor does not support defunding in the same sense as, say, Washington state anarchists who have declared a police-free autonomous zone in downtown Seattle. Rather, the Governor supports reallocating law-enforcement dollars in support of the latest trendy Democratic Party talking point. Continue reading

Portsmouth Statue Smashers Nearly Kill a Man

by Kerry Dougherty

Every time I pick up a newspaper I find myself thinking, If only they had real editors.

I had that thought yesterday when the local newspaper published this online:
“A man was hurt when one of the statues fell from the Portsmouth Confederate monument.”

No, no, no.

A statue didn’t FALL from the base of the Confederate monument. It didn’t blow over in a wind. It was toppled by vandals wielding sledge hammers.

Big difference.

And proof, once again, that words matter.

What happened Wednesday night in Portsmouth was a disgrace.

The police – under orders by some unnamed “elected official” according to The Virginian-Pilot – had been told to stand down. And so they did. As a consequence, an unruly mob armed with spray paint and swinging mallets swarmed all over the monument that has stood at the corner of High and Court Streets for 127 years. Continue reading

The Ups and Downs of Felix Dzerzhinsky

Felix Dzerzhinsky toppled. Photo credit: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko.

By Peter Galuszka

For three decades, a 15-ton statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky loomed over a square in downtown Moscow. He rose high near the Lubyanka building, a turn of the century, yellow-colored one-time insurance office that served as the national headquarters for the KGB.

“Iron Felix,” born of Polish nobility, is best known as V.I. Lenin’s henchman, the leader of the Red secret police who orchestrated the deaths of hundreds of thousands during the Russian Civil War. He became regarded as the grandfather of various Soviet security agencies, including the MVD, NKVD, KGB and now the FSB and SVR.

Then in August 1991, Soviet hardliners attempted a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, the reform-minded Communist Party chief. The coup failed, touching off a storm of retribution.

As many as 1,320 statues of Lenin cross the country came down. Leningrad became St. Petersburg, the Kirov Ballet reverted to its old name, the Mariinsky Ballet, and the city of Moscow ordered the statue of Felix taken down.

In order words, there is a strong similarity between what happened just before the Soviet Union fell apart in December 1991 and what is going on today in this country, especially in Virginia. Continue reading

Racism, COVID19 and Marijuana Legalization in Virginia

By DJ Rippert

Unintended consequences.  Newspapers, websites and Bacon’s Rebellion have been full of articles describing and debating the COVID-19 pandemic and the police killing of George Floyd with the attendant protests. First-order consequences of these events have been widely discussed. However, as we enter into the “new normal” a number of secondary and tertiary questions arise. One such question pertains to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Virginia. My opinion is that both the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout and the new sense of urgency around racial justice should compel our state government to accelerate the legalization of adult use marijuana.

The COVID19 lockdown recession. The sudden stop to Virginia’s economy has resulted in predictable fiscal turmoil. While one can debate whether the lockdown was too restrictive, not sufficiently restrictive, too long or too short there can be no debate that closing large parts of the economy has caused deep financial issues. The US economy is in recession. Some will say that Virginia will be insulated from the worst of that recession by the flow of federal dollars through the state. To that I’d reply – “don’t be naive, Nancy” … stories of the impact on small businesses are being reported across the state. It should be obvious to everybody that Virginia faces a fiscal winter even if there is no second wave of Coronavirus this actual winter. Continue reading

They Are Coming For Your Family, Your Strip Malls

Sen. Amanda Chase with sidearm

By Peter Galuszka

State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield County, has always played the clown.

The conservative politician grabbed attention a year or so back when she addressed a meeting at the General Assembly wearing a revolver in a holster on her hip. She’s also feuded with the county Republican Party and was defrocked.

Now Chase is striking again by spreading fears of ANTIFA attacks on mostly white and middle class suburban areas. She says the loosely organized far left group is targeting strip malls at Meadowdale and Hancock Village in Chesterfield County and in Hanover County at Mechanicsville.

She said that members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun lobby, would be patrolling some of these areas.

A few problems here:

Chase said her source for source for the ANTIFA tip was Chesterfield Police Chief Jeffrey Katz. Contacted by the Chesterfield Observer, Katz said he was not her source. “At no time did I share any active criminal intelligence with her,” Katz told the Observer. Continue reading