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May 11, 2017

Holding police officers accountable for misconduct by strengthening certification standards is one of the most important needed changes in the way law enforcement operates in Virginia, according to a new seven-point reform agenda released today by the ACLU of Virginia.

Speaking at a meeting of the Virginia Criminal Justice Services Board this morning, ACLU-VA Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga said currently officers may only be de-certified if they are convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors, or fail to complete mandatory training. That is unlike other regulated professions in Virginia – such as the practice of law, medicine and accounting – in which certified or licensed individuals can lose their ability to practice for ethical as well as criminal infractions.

The result, Gastañaga said, is that officers who engage in misconduct that may even result in their being fired from a law enforcement agency can simply be rehired by a sheriff’s or police department in a different jurisdiction without the public knowing it.

“It is time to hold police officers accountable through their professional certification,” Gastañaga said.

Strengthening accountability through certification is one of the key recommendations in the ACLU-VA’s new report, “Accountability in Virginia Policing: An Agenda for Reform.”

Other major recommendations in the report include:

  • Ending policing of low-level offenses,
  • Implementation of statewide policies for use-of-force and body-cam policies,
  • Abolishing civil asset forfeiture (policing for profit),
  • Establishing civil authority over policing,
  • Independent investigations of officer-involved shootings and other critical incidents, and
  • Greater transparency in collection and availability of data on critical policing activity.