Category Archives: Public safety & health

Trump’s ICE Scandal in Farmville

By Peter Galuszka

In a remarkable display of incompetence, the Trump Administration this summer transferred dozens of undocumented aliens being held in detention centers in Arizona and Florida to a private prison in Farmville just so special federal tactical officers could beef up crowd control in Washington, D.C.

Consequently, some 300 inmates at the Farmville Detention Center operated by the privately held Richmond-based Immigration Centers of America contracted the COVID 19 virus and one died.

The action, reported this morning by The Washington Post, prompted U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to call for stricter oversight of the Farmville facility that operates under a contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to hold undocumented aliens while their cases are being reviewed or while they await deportation.

Jennifer Boysko, a Democratic state senator, called for changes in state law to allow greater regulation of private prisons.

According to the Post, the Trump Administration wanted more protection from generally peaceful protests that were being held near the White House that called attention to police slayings of African Americans while in custody. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser declined to call for federal help. Continue reading

Virginia Needs to Prepare for November’s Election

by DJ Rippert

Chaos. Violent riots have become a nightly occurrence across America. Portland is now over 100 nights of protests and riots. Meanwhile, Portland’s mayor expresses his solidarity with the protesters while moving from his residence because of the number of violent protests conducted on his doorstep. You can’t make this up. People are dying in big cities and small. Kenosha has been a war zone recently and another inexplicable police shooting in Los Angeles has that city on edge. In Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently had an epiphany … the riots and looting were not protests. Rather they were “planned attacks.”  Sharp thinkin’ from the Land of Lincoln. Sadly, the Labor Day weekend saw 51 shooting and 10 killings in Chicago. Closer to home D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is talking about a possible “race war” stirred up by “outside agitators.” Charles Manson is getting his “Helter Skelter” 50 years late. Virginia has been no stranger to street violence as looting and vandalism have come to Richmond and Hampton Roads.

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Job Recovery Is Not the Special Session’s Focus

This building remains boarded up, and legislators are not there (except the House Speaker and Clerk, pantomiming a real session on Zoom.)

By Steve Haner

With the Virginia General Assembly’s “Cops and COVID” special session moving into its third week, it seems likely to impede rather than assist the state’s economic recovery from the pandemic. It may also greatly expand COVID-19’s financial burdens in the years to come.

The highly publicized issues of unpaid rents and utility bills, threatening tens of thousands with choices between eviction, disconnection, or years of additional debt, are clearly related to un- and under-employment from the COVID-19 recession. But getting people back to work does not seem the top priority for legislators.

The original stated purposes for the session starting August 18 were to amend the state budget in response to the recession, and make other adjustments responding to the viral disease. Deadly confrontations between police and Black suspects in several American cities, and the violent response, added police and judicial reform issues to the agenda.  Continue reading

It Matters Where You Seek COVID Data

VDH chart of COVID-19 deaths over time in Virginia’s Northern Region, as of 9/5. Click for larger view.  Having been hit the worst early, it is now doing better than ROVA.

By Steve Haner

Even when there is no intent to twist the data, it still matters where you look if you want to see Virginia’s status in dealing with Our Permanent Pandemic.

The chart on the daily death count, for example, looks dramatically different on the Virginia Department of Health’s website when compared to the Virginia Public Access Project daily updates. It is clear example of how the same data can seem vastly different based on presentation.

What apparently is going on is that as VDH issues daily updates, the compilers at the health department account for each death on the date of actual death, which means 20 new reports on one day might be spread out back a week or more. At VPAP, the daily count is the daily count.

So, you get this chart below from VDH, as of Saturday.  See the steady decline in deaths, and the huge difference from the early peak to the present day.

VDH chart of statewide deaths over time, as of 9/5. Click for larger view.

VPAP chart of Virginia deaths over time, as of 9/5. Click for larger view.

The VPAP bar chart and seven-day average show more peaks, and a would lead you to conclude Virginia is in more dire shape. It shows a seven-day average death rate of about 15, almost three times the VDH chart’s seven day average below of below six. Fifteen versus six is a huge deal. Continue reading

Voters Oppose Contracts That Protect Bad Cops

By Steve Haner

As yet another bitter conflict over a police officer’s use of deadly force divides America, this time a case in Wisconsin, Virginia’s General Assembly forges ahead with opening up the state to the police unions that usually rush to protect their members from discipline or dismissal.

The Kenosha Professional Police Association was quick with its call for everybody to step back and let that investigation proceed. That is a fairly balanced statement, but then it put out a statement defending the officers’ behavior that ended with an entire clip emptied into somebody’s back.  Unions advocate for their members.

Among all the bills introduced in the General Assembly’s special session response to these cases are a handful seeking to prevent some of the worst problems seen when unions stand up for bad cops. One is already defeated, but two are languishing in a House committee, where they may or may not be heard. All three have Republican sponsors.

A poll conducted for the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy two weeks ago indicates they would have public and bipartisan support. The poll over-sampled Black Virginians, to be sure enough were called to give credence to that cross tabulation. Their support was in line with all Virginians.

To be specific:

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Shhh. COVID Deaths Drop. Keep It Quiet.

Virginia Department of Health. Click for larger view. Go to the website for the interactive version.

Isn’t this always the way? Just as the Virginia General Assembly arrives in Richmond to save us from COVID-19, Virginia’s number are getting way better.The 7-day average for deaths in the Northern Virginia region tracked by the Virginia Department of Health is zero. Zero. It has recorded zero deaths in August so far.

The statewide 7-day average, which tracks about a week back, has dropped to 5 deaths per day, the lowest average since the pandemic’s initial assault. That’s the chart above. Eastern Virginia’s 7-day death average is now below two per day, and here in the Central (read Capitol) region, is it about one death every other day. That region has had only six deaths recorded so far in August.  Continue reading

COVID Workers Comp On House Democrat Bill List

By Steve Haner

The coming Special Session of the General Assembly will be narrowly focused but filled with controversy, based on the legislative wish list just released by House of Delegates Democrats. Only two bills listed fall outside of the major categories of “COVID-19 Relief” or “Criminal Justice and Police Reform.”

Under the heading “COVID Relief,” the Democrats wish to reopen their drive for employee paid leave and. as predicted. want to designate COVID-19 as a workplace disease.

The Senate Democrats have their own list, released in June and reiterated in a more recent news release. The release claims that one of the bills is ready for public viewing, but provides no link and the bill mentioned is not yet available through Legislative Information Services. Neither caucus has yet revealed any thoughts on how to amend the state budget, a task where Governor Ralph Northam naturally takes the lead.

Here is the list from the House Democratic Caucus, with some thoughts following:

COVID-19 Relief:

  • Requiring businesses to grant paid sick leave for Virginia workers.
  • Prohibiting garnishments of stimulus relief checks. (Office of Attorney General bill)
  • Establishing a presumption of workers’ compensation for first responders, teachers, and other high-risk essential workers.
  • Providing immunity from civil claims related to COVID-19 for complying with health guidance.
  • Combating price gouging for Personal Protective Equipment. (Office of Attorney General bill)
  • Protecting Virginians from eviction during a public health emergency.
  • Creating a Commonwealth Marketplace for PPE Acquisition.
  • Mandating transparency requirements for congregate-care facilities during a public health emergency.

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Systemic Racism? What’s That?

By Peter Galuszka

At Bacon’s Rebellion there’s a constant, grating mantra debunking the concept that the U.S. has a serious problem with “Institutional” or “Systemic” Racism.

Slavery? Jim Crow? Irrelevant! We’re treated to commentary after commentary that Blacks just need to try harder. They are lazy. They do not support family values. They get too much wasted money in school spending and health care. Their constant abuse by law enforcement is imaginary. Black Lives Matters is a hateful, racist movement. BLM jeopardizes our values. Students interested in the movement were not “indoctrinated” enough. It’s bad enough if it comes up in public schools, but let BLM come up at a toney private institution in a wealthy, mostly White suburb, then it is a blood libel against every private school headmaster in the country.

For a partial list of blog postings with ideas, please see the URLs at the end of this column.

Ok. So what? Well, this morning I saw a small story in The Washington Post that shocked me since it went right to the heart of Institutional and/or Systemic Racism. If you still don’t believe it exists, read on. Continue reading

Private Immigrant Prison Has Virus Crisis

By Peter Galuszka

A private prison for undocumented immigrants in Farmville is having its own COVID-19 crisis after 90% of its detainees tested positive for the virus.

Court papers have shown that 267 inmates at the prison run by Richmond-based Immigration Centers of America have tested positive for the virus and another 80 were still awaiting results as of last week.

What seems to be an increasingly dire situation at the Farmville Detention Center on the outskirts of town has been highlighted by WRIC, the Daily Beast and HuffPost.

Officials at the prison are the target of a lawsuit by the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (CAIR) and the facility was the scene of a disturbance earlier this month when inmates refused to assemble one morning early this month and guards used pepper spray in the ensuing fracas.

Part of the problem started on June 2, when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department sent along 74 immigrant detainees from Florida and Arizona. The Farmville facility could have refused, but the owners make profits on the per diem rates they are paid by the federal government. The City of Farmville gets a cut of the per diem as well.

According to WRIC, 90% of the inmates are infected. Continue reading

Gerald Smith: Richmond’s New Top Cop

By Peter Galuszka

FYI, here’s a piece I did for Style Weekly about Richmond’s new p0lice chief, the third in about a month, and his interpretation on the problems of law enforcement in this period of defunding.

The Return of the “Cooch”

By Peter Galuszka

Early this past Wednesday morning, Mark Pettibone and Connor O’Shead were walking on their way home after a peaceful protest in Portland, Ore.

Suddenly an unmarked van pulled in front of them. Men wearing green uniforms, tactical gear and generic signs reading “POLICE” hustled them into the vehicle. They were not told why they were being detained. After 90 minutes, the badly shaken men were released without being charged.

The episode might sound like the activities of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his “little green men” who have shown up in places like Crimea and Eastern Ukraine to intimidate and detain people.

But this was Portland, a progressive city that has seen protests for weeks. President Donald Trump has urged federal authorities to move in on cities to restore his sense of order even though city officials in Portland do not want his help and are investigating what is going on.

And, guess who is playing a role in what could be a growing national trend of federal law enforcement performing “snatch and grabs” of innocent protestors?

That would be Kenneth Cuccinelli, the former hard right, state attorney general and failed gubernatorial candidate. He is now acting deputy secretary of the Trump’s Department of Homeland Security. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: COVID-19 Heroes and Villains

Somebody’s got to do it. Linda Echols has driven school buses for Pittsylvania County for 48 years. At 75 years old, she’s at elevated risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. She is concerned about her safety when the school year starts back up this summer, but worries more about her students. In marked contrast to thousands of teachers from Virginia Beach to Fairfax County who are resisting in-person teaching this upcoming academic year, Echols is determined to stay by her post, according to this article in the Danville Register & Bee. “I have to pray and do it,” she says. “Somebody’s got to do it.” If Virginia public school children manage to get an education this year under the trying circumstances of the COVID epidemic, it will be due to unsung heroines like Linda Echols.

Unannounced inspections coming to a restaurant near you. How will Governor Ralph Northam enforce his emergency COVID-19 health-and-safety restrictions on restaurants and retailers announced earlier this week? The state will conduct unannounced inspections, with a focus on the Hampton Roads area where COVID-19 infections have increased in recent weeks, reports the Washington Business Journal. “If you own a restaurant or a business and you’re not following the regulations, your license will be on the line and we will not hesitate to take action if needed,” Northam said at a press conference Tuesday. Business groups have criticized the crackdown, saying they were not consulted in the drawing up of regulations.

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Thank Europe For a Badly Needed Reality Check

By Peter Galuszka

It’s time for a pandemic reality check, especially at Bacon’s Rebellion.

The blog is flooded with post after post about how the coronavirus crisis is exaggerated and how Gov. Ralph Northam “King Ralph” is Public Enemy No. 1 and wields improper power by closing schools, bars, beaches, businesses and so on. I won’t mention names since you know who you are.

Add to backdrop the enforced parochialism at Bacon’s Rebellion, in which we aren’t supposed to think beyond the borders of the Old Dominion, despite the fact that Virginia has enormous ties with other countries and travel and contact are essential.

Among the most damning data about the lack of progress against the virus, led by the unspeakably incompetent leadership of Donald Trump and Virginia’s provincialism, can be found in a small story in today’s Washington Post.

As some readers may know, the European Union has finally loosened its travel rules, particularly for Canada, New Zealand and Japan. But not for the United States. Why? As of June 15, the E.U. had recorded only 15 new cases of COVID 19 infection per 100,000 for the previous two weeks. The U.S. recorded a whopping 145 cases per 100,000 for the same period. Continue reading

First Cops. Now Firefighters.

by Kerry Dougherty

I’ve had enough. Chances are you have too.

Enough of lawlessness. Enough of destruction of property. Enough of despicable disrespect for law enforcement.

It’s time to send a message to those bent on mayhem that there are some lines they may not cross.

Interfering with firefighters trying to save lives IS that line.

No doubt you heard. On Monday at about 9 p.m. a motorcyclist apparently lost control of his bike and slammed into a tree in the Seatack neighborhood of Virginia Beach.

As emergency workers arrived a crowd of gawkers materialized. The numbers quickly swelled to between 75 and 100, according to news reports.

For reasons that are unclear and can NEVER be justified, some of the spectators began pushing and kicking the first responders. Continue reading

A List of the Police Reform Proposals So Far

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

As we have discussed on this blog over the past few days, the Democrats in the General Assembly  have put together extensive and far-reaching packages on police reform. Steve Haner was considerate enough to provide a list of the Senate Democrats’ proposals, as well as a link to the package released by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Several of the proposals of the Black Caucus are what I have called broad, “aspirational” goals. They describe the ultimate goal, but do not provide the details on how to reach the goal. On the other hand, the Senate Democratic Caucus put forth more specific proposals

For your ease in following the action, I have consolidated them into a side-by-side comparison. (It can be found here.) I took the liberty of organizing them a little bit differently than the two organizations did and of providing some comments of my own on some of the proposals. Continue reading