Category Archives: Law enforcement

Getting Rid of the Bad Apples

Photo credit: ABC News

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

There is a tendency in government to enact reform or establish new programs and then move on. Often, there is little or no circling back, by government or the media, to examine how the changes have been implemented or what effect they have had.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I intend to discuss the implementation of some of the changes in the criminal justice system enacted by the 2020 General Assembly. As with any major changes in a complex system, two years will have been insufficient time for many major effects to become evident. However, it is fair to examine how well their implementation is progressing.

Of all the criminal justice and law-enforcement reforms considered by the General Assembly in its 2020 Special Session, the need to get the “bad apples” out of law enforcement probably was the one that attracted the most support from all factions, including the law enforcement community. Continue reading

The Public Housing and Education Debate – Who, Exactly, are the Racists?

Norfolk public housing immediately adjacent to old Virginian-Pilot building

by James C. Sherlock

There is agreement on both sides of the political divide in Virginia and the rest of the country that public housing projects were and are hellholes.

I have written that the bipartisan response, vouchers, run into lack of supply virtually everywhere.

Cue the debate about causes and solutions.

Let’s take a look at the evidence. Continue reading

Portsmouth: Chaos + Casino = Chaos

Louise Lucas

by James C. Sherlock

Portsmouth has a lot of problems. Look for them to get worse in February when its new casino is scheduled to open.

A key thing you need to know about the casino is that it is the realization of Louise Lucas’ vision. Senator Lucas has spent 22 years promoting a casino in Portsmouth. As if that was just the thing Portsmouth needed to become a successful city.

Her vision was clarified by nearly $50,000 in campaign donations from casino interests.

Introduced in January 2019 by Lucas, Virginia Senate Bill 1126 earmarked commercial casinos for the towns of Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth. The legislation also permitted the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to build Native American casinos in Richmond and Norfolk.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth is scheduled to open in February, just across the water or through the tunnels here in South Hampton Roads from the new casino in Norfolk that will open in 2024.

Both were teed up by a Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee (JLARC) study required by that legislation prior to the votes of the citizens of those five locations.

The site-specific study done for JLARC by the Innovation Group projects the casino in Norfolk will generate only slightly more revenue than the one in Portsmouth. It forecasts that in 2025, the Norfolk casino would produce about $150 million in total revenue and the Portsmouth site $130 million. Continue reading

Marcus Alerts in Virginia and Risks to Unarmed Responders

by James C. Sherlock

The Marcus Alert is named after Marcus-David Peters, a teacher killed by Richmond police in 2018 amid a mental health crisis.

The Marcus Alert system requires coordination between 911 and regional crisis call centers and establishes a specialized behavioral health response from a combination of behavioral health professionals and law enforcement when responding to a behavioral health situation.

It sounds right, but is dangerous to unarmed responders. We will have to work through that to see if the program is sustainable over time. And where. Continue reading

Virginia’s Law on Sterilization and Child Gender Transition Procedures

By James C. Sherlock

A recent article on this site on medical and surgical procedures for gender transition in children drew more than 100 comments.  There is no Virginia law that controls this process for children.

But we have a law governing sterilization that appears to make sterilization of a child under 18, by extension, unlawful.

Here it is.

§ 54.1-2974. Sterilization operations for persons 18 years or older capable of informed consent.

It shall be lawful for any physician licensed by the Board of Medicine to perform a vasectomy, salpingectomy, or other surgical sexual sterilization procedure on any person 18 years of age or older who has the capacity to give informed consent, when so requested in writing by such person. Prior to or at the time of such request, a full, reasonable, and comprehensible medical explanation as to the meaning and consequences of such an operation and as to alternative methods of contraception shall be given by the physician to the person requesting the operation.

Curious.

One of the outcomes of the partially irreversible forms of hormones used in gender transition is sterilization.

Certainly “bottom” surgery is sterilization.

I ask the lawyers and physicians among my readers to comment on whether the Virginia sterilization law governs medical and surgical gender transition processes visited on children.

Virginia State Policy Guidance Discourages Reporting of Gang-Related Assaults in Schools

By James C. Sherlock

Over the last four years I always found it necessary to monitor the workings and products of both the Virginia Board of Education (BOE) appointed by two Democratic Governors and Governor Northam’s Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).

The amount of radical and objectively dangerous policy that came out of that system was unconscionable.

I just found another one that escaped my notice at the time.

The BOE in 2021 published model guidance still in force that pushes school boards to establish policies that actively discourage school principals from either reporting in-school gang-related assaults to law enforcement.  Richmond Public Schools, and I don’t know how many other school divisions, have done just that.

The issues:

  • Virginia criminal law makes gang-related assaults in schools aggravated felonies; and
  • gang activity in schools is objectively dangerous and disruptive.

Unbelievably, the Northam Department of Criminal Justice Services, responsible for school safety, participated in the drafting of those model policies.

At least that Department should have known that the BOE policy is way out of bounds from both criminal justice and school safety standpoints and blown the whistle.

The BOE needs to change the policy.

The Commonwealth Inspector General and the Attorney General need to investigate how that happened, assign responsibility, levy accountability and ensure such a thing never happens again.

Continue reading

A Gun Owner’s Suggestion for Virginia Gun Laws

By James C. Sherlock

I was a career military man.

I am a conservative and a gun owner. As a younger man, I won competitive awards for marksmanship with both rifle and pistol.

I own a semi-automatic Glock for home protection.  I train regularly and at almost 77 can still hit what I aim at.

With that introduction, I have a couple of suggestions for gun legislation in Virginia that I hope will draw condemnation from both the left and the right so that I know I have it roughly right.

I have four criteria for firearms legislation:

  • changes that can matter to the safety of children and law enforcement officers;
  • changes that can deter criminals from use of a firearm in the commission of a crime;
  • changes that do not disadvantage the average citizen’s possession and use of firearms; and
  • changes that can pass Second Amendment review in federal court.

Those are, as a group, difficult needles to thread simultaneously.  They should be.

This article involves semi-automatic long guns – rifles and shotguns.

Continue reading

School Threat Assessment Teams Revisited

by James C. Sherlock

I wrote on February 12 of this year about what I consider an indicator of a potential overreach by the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).  FCPS security has published an RFP for corporate support for web search to support its threat assessment team.

Since that article, I have conducted extensive email exchange with Donna Michaelis, Director of the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety at the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). She is a dedicated public servant responsible for policy in this area. She gave me a lot of her time. It has proven an informative exchange and I thank her for it.

I see three gaps in current law and policy on school threat assessment teams.

They both set school divisions up to make mistakes that may possibly compromise any case that may be built against an actual threat and can permit them to overreach on matters that they should leave to law enforcement:

  1. Virginia law and policy fail to define roles and responsibilities
    1. on school threat assessment teams between law enforcement and school system personnel on the teams; and
    2. between school systems and law enforcement agencies.
  2. They set no clear limits on what types of “individuals” are within the scope of school investigations.
  3. Finally, there is no requirement that the school division threat assessment oversight teams as currently constituted under Virginia law have the expertise to deal with the legal complexities involved.

Continue reading

Should It Be OK For The Police To Lie?

Photo credit: New York Times

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

On at least five occasions over a four-year period, Virginia Beach police confronted suspects with fake documents that indicated the suspect had been connected to a crime through DNA evidence.

The documents were forged certificates of analysis, complete with the letterhead of the Virginia Department of Forensic Sciences and the Seal of the Commonwealth. One of the fake certificates was used in a judicial proceeding in which the defendant was denied bail.

The current police chief assumed control of the department in late 2020, after the instances in question occurred. When he learned of the use of fake certificates in April 2021, he immediately issued an order to his department prohibiting the practice. Continue reading

Virginia Penalties for Battery Against School and Healthcare Personnel are a Problem

Courtesy of wallpaper.com

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia has a law that, having been amended piecemeal over the years, is inconsistent, inflexible and may not provide the protections that lawmakers or potential victims intended.

The law is Code of Virginia § 18.2-57. Assault and battery; penalty.

A member of the Fairfax County bar has reported that progressive Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano in Fairfax County did not prosecute assault and battery misdemeanors. (Mr. Kassabian has since my initial link to his web page taken down the information about nol pros categories in Fairfax County.)

My primary issue with the current law is that, as written, a policy like Mr. Descano’s will leave healthcare professionals and school personnel unprotected by the laws put in place to do just that.   Police officers must prosecute if the CA will not.

Currently law says any person who commits a simple assault or assault and battery is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.  It is a Class 6 felony if either:

  • a hate crime “because” the victim is a member of a recently expanded number of protected classes; or
  • battery against a law enforcement official (long list) or a fire and rescue team member.

In my reading of the law:

  1. It is a Class 6 felony with a mandatory minimum term of confinement of six months to physically attack an EMS technician, but a misdemeanor to attack a physician;
  2. It is a Class 6 felony with a mandatory minimum term of confinement of six months to strike a school resource officer, but a misdemeanor if the victim is an assistant principal or teacher;
  3. In the cases of the physician and teacher in performance of their duties, battery can be charged as a Class 6 felony only if the victim is a member of a protected class and the attack can be credibly be blamed on that fact; and
  4. in every case commonwealth attorneys, some of whom publicly disagree with the penalties, have discretion as to whether to prosecute misdemeanors.

Continue reading

A Naval Officer Prepares to Repel Boarders

Lt. Ron DeSantis

by James C. Sherlock

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced he has put $8 million in his new budget to transport illegal immigrants to other states and D.C.

He listed Delaware and Martha’s Vineyard as potential destinations.

This of course will be Florida’s response to the Biden administration flying 70 planeloads of illegals into the state in the middle of the night.

BTW, do we know if Virginia got any of those flights? We really don’t know how many of these flights from the border, just like the flights from Afghanistan, landed and disgorged their passengers in Virginia.  Therefore we have no idea what the impact is and will be.  We don’t know that because Northam does not want to know or tell us.

Gov. DeSantis did and is speaking up about what he will do about it.

Excuse the schadenfreude, but it will be huge fun seeing dark blue Delaware and Massachusetts put state troopers on their borders to block entry of buses full of illegal immigrants.

I can’t wait.

Law Enforcement Shortages Come to Small-Town Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

The Town of Leesburg had a population of 49,157 as of July 1, 2021. Its police force has an authorized strength of 90 sworn officers. Twenty-one of those positions are vacant.

The Loudoun Times posted an article that headlined the town’s vaccine mandate as a potential contributor, but a close reading of the article showed that is not the case, at least not provably. Most vacancies existed before the mandate. Many  losses since the mandate were scheduled retirements. Other officers did not cite the mandate as the cause of their departures. So, maybe the mandate contributed, but not much.

What, then, are the issues? Continue reading