The ACLU of Virginia and 26 other advocacy organizations call for a special legislative session on equitable police reform in Virginia. Today, the group sent a joint letter to Gov. Ralph Northam, Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn and President Pro Tem of the Senate Louise Lucas asking the leaders to take immediate steps to dismantle systemic racism in policing through statewide legislation.
"Words and support are not enough, especially from our local elected leaders," stated the letter. "We need a commitment to real change and policies passed that will truly increase accountability in our police and bring justice and true protection for Black lives. We need policing reform to be an agenda item for a special session and cannot, and will not, wait until January 2021. There needs to be a commitment and urge to fight for a world where Black people do not have to live in fear of the police and you have the power to take on that fight right now."
It's time for Virginia leaders and lawmakers to show their commitment to racial justice with a bold reimagining of the role police play in our society. "It is time to divest from law enforcement and reinvest in the Black and Brown communities they unjustly target," stated the letter. "That means we must reorder our budget priorities at the state and local level by significantly reducing Virginia’s excessive 400 million dollar state policing budget and reinvest those funds in programs that have been consistently underfunded in Black and Brown communities for decades, including schools, affordable housing, and healthcare options. We must stop investing in disproportionately punitive responses to the economic and social consequences of that injustice."
The ACLU of Virginia and other signatories also urged lawmakers to engage with Black activists and community members as a first step to ensure any proposed legislation is equitable and will in fact change the system for Black people and communities of color. We asked them to strongly consider, at the very least, the following:
- We must reduce funding to the police and significantly reduce the scale and scope of policing in Virginia.
- We must stop tolerating a system of policing in Virginia that has been allowed to kill Black people for decades without consequence or accountability.
- We must have transparency.
- We must stop unnecessary and unconstitutional interactions between police and communities of color.
Virginia officials must lead the implementation of lasting reforms that will eliminate racial disparities in policing, bring transparency to the work of all police departments, ensure accountability and achieve justice for all.
You can read the full letter below.