Category Archives: Public safety & health

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

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

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

COVID Regs Unclear, Unneeded, Contradictory

By Steve Haner

More than two dozen Virginia business associations have asked that the state’s Safety and Health Codes Board reject proposed workplace regulations to prevent COVID-19, stating they are unclear, contradictory, and not needed in light of other existing worker protections.

Some of the largest statewide associations, such as the Virginia Manufacturers Association, National Federation of Independent Business, and Virginia Retail Federation are on the list. So are some regional chambers of commerce and the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. You can read their 13-page submission here. The conclusion reads:

“It is unreasonable to apply “one size fits all” COVID-19 regulations to all employers and employees.  Codifying guidance is not a reasonable replacement for regulation. It is confusing why after three months, the Regulations are being pursued through an emergency procedure, especially after OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) rejected the AFL-CIO’s petition for an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 and the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied their petition for a writ of mandamus to compel OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard for Infectious Diseases.”

The draft rules (here) and a related 200-page briefing package (here) have only been available since June 12. The public comment period closes tonight, and the board is set to meet Wednesday, in a format where the public can only watch. More details are provided in a Bacon’s Rebellion post from this weekend.

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

Sweeping COVID Workplace Regulation Proposed

By Steve Haner

The Northam Administration’s Safety and Health Codes Board will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday –- in a virtual process allowing no public interactions – to impose sweeping new regulatory mandates related to COVID-19 on Virginia workplaces.

They could take effect immediately upon Governor Ralph Northam’s signature, and will not disappear if an end is declared to the current emergencies or the threat of the disease dissipates.

The draft rules (here) and a related 200-page briefing package (here) have only been available since June 12. The window for on-line written comments closes Monday evening. The affected businesses have had some advance warning because union and employee activists have been pushing similar proposals in other states and at the federal level, often without success.

The stated goal is to prevent spread of disease in work spaces, and screening, sanitation, face coverings and social distancing are directed in detail. The focus on workplace safety follows COVID-19 outbreaks in food processing and health care settings. These proposals, however, will reach into every Virginia retail, office or manufacturing space.

To review the comments already filed (776 as of Saturday morning), or to add your own, visit the related page on Virginia’s Regulatory Town Hall website. The deadline for filing is Monday night at 11:59 p.m. The chances that the comments will be assessed and studied before the votes take place on Wednesday are slim and it appears, so far, much of the debate is focused on mask mandates. That is a minor part of this quite broad proposal.  Continue reading

The Very Real Threat of “Boogaloo”

By Peter Galuszka

White protestors have smeared a statue of Arthur Ashe, the African-American tennis star who faced systemic racism when he was growing up in Richmond.

True, the Ashe memorial had earlier been defaced by “Black Lives Matter” messages spray painted on its base. On Wednesday, a small band of protestors painted over the “BLM” statements with “White Lives Matter” pronouncements.

One of the protestors, a white man who called himself “Everybody,” claimed he had grown up in Richmond and drove off in a sedan with South Carolina plates, according to the Richmond-Times-Dispatch.

What is disturbing is the prospect of violent conflict, perhaps involving fast-firing, assault-style rifles, between opposing camps.

Much has been made of the so-called threat posed by ANTIFA, said to be a radical left group that is prepared to use violence at protests, which have been largely peaceful in Virginia and across the country. 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

Virginia Democrats Gearing Up for Police Reforms

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

The upcoming special session of the General Assembly will be about budget cuts and police reform.   Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn announced last week that actions on police reform would be allowed to be taken up at the special session to be held on a to-be-announced date.

Whenever it is held, it apparently will not be soon enough for the Democrats. “There is an urgency to provide relief from what many have seen as a racist criminal justice system and its application,“ said Charniele Herring, the majority leader.

None of the proposals being talked about are radical and none will constitute an immediate fix. Some of the proposals will cost money. Furthermore, one limitation that seems to have been overlooked is that most policing is under the jurisdiction of localities, which means that there is just so much that the state can do. Finally, the General Assembly has grappled with some of these issues in the past and has not resolved some of their complexities, making it improbable that it will be able to do in a short special session. 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

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

“Systemic Racism?” Damned Right!

By Peter Galuszka

There has been much debate on this blog regarding whether there is “systemic racism” in Virginia and the rest of the country.

It’s a crucial question in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed African American who was killed on video by a white Minneapolis police officer two weeks ago. The killing sparked nationwide demonstrations, some rioting and a big rethink of race relations.

Regarding is “system racism,” my answer in a resounding “yes” although I agree there has been significant progress in race relations since the since the 1960s.

A few examples:

  • Virginia was the embarkation point for American’s first slaves.
  • Slavery was a key social, economic and political institution for several hundred years.
  • The Civil War was fought over slavery. Most battles were in Virginia.
  • The state embraced Jim Crow laws and kept them for years. These made it crimes for people of different races to go to school together, go on public transit together, sit together in restaurants, get married and so on.
  • There were plenty of lynchings in Virginia. Many went unpunished.

Continue reading

A Better Alternative to Police Force

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

I have been thinking a lot about a Washington Post article and accompanying police body camera footage.

In that footage, a black man is pacing around and around in the middle of a street talking loudly, mostly incoherently. He is not being confrontational, but he is not cooperating, either. Several white Fairfax County police officers and at least one EMT are trying to find out what help he needs and trying to coax him into the back of an ambulance. Finally, one officer, just arriving on the scene, tases the man and brings him down. After some struggling and yelling, plus a couple of more tasings, the man is handcuffed and lying on his side in the street. The upshot: The man is taken to a hospital, treated, and released; the county police chief expresses outrage at the way the situation was handled; and the officer is charged with three counts of assault and battery. Continue reading