Category Archives: Crime , corrections and law enforcement

Bacon Bits: Good News for a Change

More wind turbines off the Mid-Atlantic coast. Electricity from the Kitty Hawk Offshore Wind project 27 miles off the coast of Corolla, N.C., construction of which could begin as soon as 2024, will be funneled into the electric grid via a substation in Virginia Beach’s Sandbridge community. Roughly 600 jobs will be generated within the Hampton Roads statistical area, which includes part of North Carolina. The project is expected to generate 2,500 megawatts of electricity eventually, enough to power 700,000 homes, reports Virginia Business. From Sandbridge a combination of underground and overhead cables will make the electricity available for resale by developer Avangrid Inc., to Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Appalachian Power, and others.

No aggressive enforcement of COVID curfew. Chesterfield County police will not enforce Governor Ralph Northam’s midnight-to-5 p.m. COVID-19 curfew by stopping motorists who are otherwise driving lawfully. “The law requires officers to have reasonable suspicion to stop a driver,” wrote Police Chief Colonel Jeffery S. Katz on Facebook. “There are completely lawful reasons for people to be out and about during these times and therefore mere operation of a motor vehicle does not remotely meet the legal burden necessary to justify a lawful stop.” Responding to queries from The Virginia Star, Henrico County police and the Hanover County sheriffs department confirmed that they, too, require reasonable suspicion for conducting traffic stops.

Satellite broadband for Southwest Virginia. Wise County Public Schools will be the first school district in Virginia to use the Starlink satellite internet constellation founded by Elon Musk. The entrepreneur, better known for his Tesla electric vehicles, touts Starlink as delivering broadband to “locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.” Continue reading

Richmond’s Infamous Icon

Credit: National Geographic

By Peter Galuszka

Since 1890, the Robert E. Lee Monument has dominated Richmond’s grand Monument Avenue and has stood as a striking protector of the state’s long history of systemic racism.

True, other Confederate heroes such as Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart also found a memorial spot on the Avenue but Lee has always been the main one. He has been a sentimental touchstone for romantics of the Lost Cause and of derision about people hurt by the system.

Now, Richmond and Virginia are paying a price for more than a century of refusing to own up to what it all really meant.

The famed National Geographic magazine has made a cover photo of the defaced Lee statue repurposed as a memorial to George Floyd, the Black man who was killed by police after he was arrested and handcuffed.

The Geographic was listing the top photos of 2020, a wild and depressing year that brought the coronavirus pandemic, riots in cities and the constant chaos of Donald Trump.

That’s not all. In October, The New York Times Magazine proclaimed that the defaced Lee monument was the most influential work of art since World War II. Continue reading

How Big a Problem Is Sexual Victimization of Children in Juvenile Facilities?

Credit: 2018 National Survey of Youth in Custody

by James A. Bacon

According to the late 2018 National Survey of Youth in Custody, an estimated 7.1% of youth held in juvenile facilities reported being “sexually victimized” during the previous 12 months.

The good news, such as is it, was that the percentage for Virginia youth was somewhat lower: 5.1% (subject to a fairly wide statistical margin of error). Another silver lining: The rate of rate of sexual victimization had declined from 9.5% since the previous survey in 2012.

The bad news, of course, is that any sexual victimization of young people in state facilities is unacceptable.

This data was brought to my attention by Rise for Youth, an organization dedicated to “dismantling the youth prison model” and promoting community-based alternatives to youth incarceration. As Executive Director Valerie Slater wrote in January in ACLU Virginia, Virginia’s criminal justice system is “deeply flawed” and stacked against “black, brown and poor men, women and youth.” Continue reading

Fightin’ Joe Morrissey in Hot Water Again

Fightin’ Joe

by Kerry Dougherty

When I saw yesterday’s headline in The Washington Post, I was shocked:

Virginia State Sen. Joe Morrissey Faces Criminal Charges For Allegedly Campaigning Inside Polling Place.”

I wasn’t surprised that Morrissey’s in trouble. Heck, his entire checkered career has been a gift to Virginia’s newsaper columnists. I wrote about him several times and, frankly, the fiery Democrat was a terrific interview.

Not shy, highly quotable. Everything a columnist could ask for in one colorful bundle.

There was that courtroom fistfight that earned him the nickname “Fightin’ Joe” when he was Richmond’s commonwealth’s attorney in the 1991. Then there was the 2015 session of the House of Delegates, when he commuted to the Capitol from the Henrico County Jail where he was on work release for a misdemeanor conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor (his 17-year-old receptionist, whom he later married.) If he crossed his legs just right you couldn’t see his ankle bracelet. Continue reading

The Strange Case of the Pandemic Patriots

by Peter Galuszka

In rural Southwest Virginia, the coronavirus pandemic has gotten so bad that Ballad Health, a major health care provider there, is suspending elective surgery for a month.

System-wide, Ballad, which also operates in adjacent states, had 45 available beds as of Wednesday, only 13 or 14 of them ICU beds, according to the Virginia Mercury.

In Southwest Virginia, the number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients has soared from an average of 76 a day in late April to 361 as of Wednesday, the Mercury reports.

Meanwhile, in other rural parts of the state, such as Campbell County and Appomattox County, public officials are protesting the “tyranny” of Gov. Ralph Northam’s COVID 19 restrictions, such as closing bars at 10 p.m. and not allowing people to congregate in groups larger than 25.

“Free people have a duty to push back against these restrictions,” said County Supervisor Charlie A. Watts II, according to The Washington Post.

Is this the same state? How strange since the pandemic is pushing to new heights as more people contract the disease and die. Public Enemy No. 1 is, of course, Northam, a Democrat that conservatives like to pummel. Ironically, compared to other governors, Northam has actually been fairly moderate. This week he announced he is not ordering more restrictions although he urges caution. Continue reading

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