Category Archives: Law enforcement

RVA 5×5: Redefining 100 Percent Compliance

by Jon Baliles

The recent stories from the City Jail have been anything but good — inmates dying far too often, staffing shortages leading to dangerous work conditions,  deputies quitting, and the lack of leadership that can’t fill the vacancies while conducting lie detector tests on some of the staff that remain.

Tyler Layne at CBS6 reports: “In December 2022, Richmond Councilperson Reva Trammell sent a formal letter to the Board of Local and Regional Jails requesting an investigation into the facility for compliance with state regulations. Several of Trammell’s colleagues on Richmond City Council said they supported her efforts.”

Few people beyond Trammell sounded much of an alarm about the jail until recently, when it became far too obvious that something needs to be done. Families, advocates, and elected officials have finally started raising the volume in recent weeks.

Layne went to the meeting of The Board of Local and Regional Jails (a state board charged to oversee, regulate, and investigate facilities across Virginia) to try and get some answers as to what, if anything, the state is doing. At the meeting, the board discussed ten different cases but found no violations (each case’s location were not revealed), but Layne was told after the meeting that Richmond was not one of the ten cases discussed.

Board Chairman Vernie Francis, Jr. told Layne “We’ll handle all the investigations of any facility the same way, through the process, treat every facility the exact same way.”

Francis told Layne that once an investigation is concluded and reported back to the Board, the facility must develop a corrective action plan if violations are discovered; the action plan can be approved or rejected by the Board.

CBS6 submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the board’s recent email communications related to Richmond’s jail. Ryan McCord, the Board of Local and Regional Jails executive director wrote Layne that “the board withheld 50 records, citing a FOIA exemption that applies to information about imprisoned people. The board withheld an additional 75 records, citing an exemption that applies to working papers of the Governor’s Office.”
Continue reading

Miyares Reminds Republicans the Difference a Year Makes

by Shaun Kenney

If Virginia Republicans needed a sizzle reel, this was it.

With news that leftist Commonwealth Attorneys are openly refusing to enforce the law in some cases, the threat to the rule of law and the problem of selective enforcement is greater now than ever before.

Which is why a long list of actual accomplishments is enough to lift the spirits of anyone kicking the dirt about what Virginia Republicans might be in future:
Short list?

• Miyares actually reminds us of his constitutional oath (something his predecessor set aside rather quickly);
• Launching Operation Ceasefire;
• Keeping repeat offenders off Virginia’s streets;
• Listening to and working with local law enforcement across Virginia;
• Protecting consumers from bad corporate actors;
• $1 billion in settlements while tackling the opioid crisis, specifically targeting the cheap availability of fentanyl — which is more of a problem than most people realize;
• Protecting Virginia energy ratepayers;
• Touring Virginia public schools regarding school safety;
• Perhaps the marquee issue: investigating Loudoun County Public Schools for their horrific and heavy-handed treatment of concerned parents.

There are also these: (1) Virginia Republicans are moving forward with a focus on process rather than agenda; (2) Miyares knows Virginia like the back of his hand; and (3) Miyares intends to move in coalition. Continue reading

‘Second-Look’ Bill to Release Inmates Is Back Without Safeguards

by Hans Bader

In 2022, legislation allowing inmates to seek a reduction in their sentence after 15 years in prison passed the Virginia state Senate, but died in a 5-to-3 vote in a House subcommittee after a lobbyist for the bill boasted it would empty two entire Virginia prisons. The bill, SB 378, was viewed by House Republicans and many prosecutors as too radical. It was criticized because, unlike other early-release bills, it did not exclude from release even inmates who committed the most violent offenses, such as serial killings and aggravated murders (Class 1 felonies).

In 2023, this bill has been introduced again, as SB 842. It is still known as the “second-look” bill. But this time, even safeguards found in the original legislation, such as that inmates exhibit mostly good behavior in prison before being released, have been removed — inmates no longer need to meet such “behavioral standards” to be released.

The new bill also allows violent criminals to be released without a formal finding that they are no longer a danger to the victim or the victim’s family, or to the community. Such findings are required as a safeguard by “second-look” laws in other jurisdictions, such as the District of Columbia. Washington, DC’s municipal second-look law requires a finding “that the defendant is not a danger to the safety of any person or the community” before a sentence can be reduced. (See D.C. Code § 24-403.03(a)(2)). But no such finding is required under the Virginia second-look legislation just introduced. Unlike Oregon’s second-look legislation, which does not allow killers who committed “aggravated murder” to be released, the Virginia second-look legislation would allow petitions for sentence reductions by inmates of all kinds, including serial killers, child-killers, and cop-killers. Continue reading

Governor’s Plan to Bolster Law Enforcement Is Meek Rather Than Bold

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

In October, amidst much fanfare, Governor Youngkin announced Operation Bold Blue Line.  In the words of the Governor’s press release, this initiative is “a series of concrete actions to reduce homicides, shootings, and violent crime.”

I had some questions and wanted some details on the proposal.  I posed these questions to the Governor’s press office.  Crickets.  I then posed them to the office of the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.  I got an acknowledgement and a pledge to provide the information I had requested.  Time marched on and no answers, just requests for more time to prepare the response.  Finally, I was told that my inquiry was being bumped to the Governor’s press office.  Fortunately, someone in that office did respond and answer my questions.

After doing some research and reading the responses to my questions, I have to say that I am underwhelmed by this initiative. Continue reading

Why Law Enforcement Supports Gov. Youngkin’s Behavioral Health Transformation

Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Deputies

by James C. Sherlock

Updated Jan 6 at 13:10.

Virginia’s sheriffs and police chiefs are reasonably hardened by what they see every day.

They have very difficult jobs to do and are unlikely, either individually or in groups, to support nonsense.

Governor Glenn Youngkin has accepted the challenge of finally fixing Virginia’s behavioral health system. He is strongly supported in that effort by Virginia’s sheriffs and police chiefs.

This is a straightforward proposition for law enforcement.

  • They want people with mental health crises treated by professionals before they commit crimes, not after; and
  • They want them housed when necessary in facilities appropriate to the task of treating them, not in jails.

The Governor proposes to spend $341.6 million in the next fiscal year on that problem, including $123 million in new funding.

  • The law enforcement community sees that as a bargain.
  • Neither the Governor nor law enforcement are known to put up with failure.

The case is sufficiently compelling for small government conservatives to back this effort. Continue reading

Police Common Sense in Richmond

Rick Edwards, acting police chief of Richmond.   Photo credit: NBC 12

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

A recent article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch brings news that contravenes two themes prevalent in Bacon’s Rebellion: the rising violent crime rate and the ineffectiveness of the Richmond city government.

Despite having a police force with a vacancy rate of 20%, Richmond has seen a 35% drop in homicides and nearly a 20% drop in armed robberies in 2022. The Richmond police department’s strategy for helping to achieve these reductions was simple and commonsensical: put the cops where there is likely to be trouble.

Rick Edwards, now the interim police chief, instituted a gun violence reduction program last summer. He first asked analysts in the department to identify gun violence “hot spots.” Those were defined as one to three-block areas in which there were a lot of murders, non-fatal shootings, robberies, shooting into occupied dwellings, and shootings into occupied cars.  He contends that those last two items are “indicators of future murders.” Continue reading

Bad Times at Richmond Jail

by Jon Baliles

If anyone knows what the hell is going on at the Richmond City Jail, please raise your hand. Stand up. Write it down. Grab the mic. Something. Anything.

In a bizarre series of stories in recent days, people are dying, guards are getting beaten, and strange and awful things are happening at the City Jail. The slow drip of bad news has turned into a torrent of stories — none of them good. Sheriff Antionette Irving is invoking the opening of the Miranda warning on herself by not saying much of anything while charging the media absurd fees to get information about even basic records, whether they are subject to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) or not.

Luca Powell at the Richmond Times-Dispatch tried to get basic payroll records and was told the work to find that information would cost $1,385 by tasking four people to do the work at $98 per hour. Continue reading

Buta Biberaj’s Hot Potatoes

Buta Biberaj

by James C. Sherlock

I admit it.

I hope the cases against the two Loudoun County school officials actually go to trial.

The indictments for misconduct by school system officials surrounding the rapes of two school girls seem to require it to assign accountability.

But left-wing icon Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj is in a hard spot whether they go to trial or not.

She had her chance to use the special grand jury system to investigate these circumstances and did not.  The Attorney General, with approval of the Circuit Court in Loudoun County, did it for her.

Now the interesting part starts for Ms. Biberaj and the rest of us. Continue reading

Great Investigative Reporting of a Heartbreaking Story

Courtesy Asra Investigates

by James C. Sherlock

For a story that will simultaneously make you angry and break your heart, read Fathering While Black, by Asra Nomani and Debra Tisler.

It is the story of a guardian ad litem (GAL), Karen Keys-Gamarra, who is reported here to have systematically abused her position to pursue a Black father and his parents for the crime of loving and caring for his daughter while male.

The child’s mother was a junkie who exposed her baby to cocaine. The father is a gainfully employed paramedic in Stafford County with a clean record and clean drug tests. His own mother is a registered nurse and his father a retiree.

The GAL got an order from an Arlington J&D judge to take the child from the home of her father and grandparents last night.

The authors have practiced world-class investigative journalism in describing the case and the system — Arlington J&D judge, GAL and Child Protective Services — that worked together to seize the little girl. And put a gag order on her father and his parents.

If ethics violations were a crime, based on this reporting this case would be a Class 1 felony.

Now nobody in the system will comment.

Ms. Nomani and Ms. Tisler comment for them.  Thoroughly and compellingly.

Virginia Should Enforce Threat Assessment Laws. Noting Lack of Compliance Not Enough.

by James C. Sherlock

I have written about the Threat Assessment Teams (TAT’s) of two state universities, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.

I assessed Tech to be compliant with state law. I reported that UVa is not. That of course raises the issue of the rest of Virginia’s colleges and universities.

The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) in 2014, with far more resources and access than I, found the state of the TAT’s serving the commonwealth’s fifteen four-year state institutions of higher learning (IHL), its community colleges and private IHLs to be as a group a hot mess (my term).

I will follow this article with an assessment of the compliance of the current policies of Virginia’s fifteen public IHLs.

The 2014 report did not have the intended effect of standardization and professionalization of threat assessment and intervention in Virginia. Preliminary reviews of the policies of each IHL show them still to be all over the map in terms of compliance.

I am reasonably sure that if DCJS redid its survey tomorrow, it would result in similar findings and recommendations. Perhaps at this point the government should actually enforce the law rather than just reporting on the lack of compliance.

One wishes that had occurred years earlier. Continue reading

Petersburg Resumes Important Actions Against City Code Violators — Homeless Needs Increase

Travel Inn was shut down by the ACE team in June. Courtesy Joyce Chu, Progress Index.

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes absolutely necessary actions have more than one outcome.

Such is the case in Petersburg.

Joyce Chu of Petersburg’s indispensable Progress- Index last evening initiated a multi-part series on the impacts of the city’s closure due to safety violations of two motels used by otherwise homeless people.

Her first article makes a case for more government and charitable services for the people affected by the closures. Good for her. No one wants people living on the streets and everyone wants the kids in school.

She explains that the California Inn, OYO and Travel Inn motels, among a group of low cost motels right off of I-95, were

also hotbeds of crime, drug overdoses and prostitution mixed in with families with children, according to former residents and homeless advocates.

She points out that Petersburg has resumed (after a lengthy period when it did not) enforcing its zoning codes. A team called the ACE team — Abatement, Compliance, and Enforcement — is on task, run by the Fire Chief.

Code enforcement is an absolutely necessary step to revitalize the city.

So is helping those adversely affected.  -Hotel owners should be forced within the limits of the law to assist. Continue reading

Ungrateful Citizens of Fairfax County

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay credit

by James C. Sherlock

Jeff McKay, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors,  can’t catch a break.

Violent crime is up. The Fairfax County Police Chief has declared a police emergency for staffing.

There has been a fairly brutal back and forth up there about who is responsible and who is or is not working to fix it.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, a George Soros acolyte, apparently has missed the news about the crime wave. His website emphasizes the reforms he has initiated since 2020. Understandably, he is not anxious to link those reforms to the crime wave. Take a look. You will be able to do it for him.

But this story is about Chairman McKay. After a big ruckus, he has moved on from crime and police shortages.

A recent story relates that he blames a lot of unsolved problems in Fairfax County — or what he assesses as problems — on the Dillon Rule. He chafes under its restrictions. He wants an exemption from that rule to make Fairfax County a city-state.

Not quite by the way, he wants authority to levy a local income tax.

Seriously. Continue reading

More on Virginia Sheriffs

Governor Youngkin and incoming officers of Virginia Sheriffs Association  Photo Credit:  Virginia Sheriffs Association

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

This article is a follow-up to Jim McCarthy’s article on sheriffs.  My main purpose is to provide some details and more context to the discussion of the position of sheriff in Virginia.

The sheriff is a “constitutional officer.” Article VII, Section 4 of the state constitution directs that in each county and city there shall be elected, among other positions, a sheriff. The provision goes on to say, “The duties and compensation of such officers shall be prescribed by general law or special act.”

The general powers of a sheriff include law enforcement, jail operation, court security, and service of process. However, state law authorizes cities and towns to establish any departments set out in their charters. As a result, all cities and most towns have charter provisions allowing them to establish a police department. Therefore, sheriffs in cities are limited to administering the jail, providing security in the courts, and serving process papers. Continue reading

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