Tell Lawmakers to Hold Police Accountable

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Black and Brown people in Virginia continue to suffer injuries and die at the hands of police, yet police are not held accountable for their misconduct.

If you're hurt or killed by a police officer who has used excessive force in violation of the constitution, current law known as "qualified immunity" limits the likelihood that you or your family can recover money damages for the harm caused by a police officer. Qualified immunity gives police officers a legal shield from ever being held accountable in federal court. We can fix that by giving people the ability to sue police and their departments in Virginia courts under Virginia laws. Real harm done to an individual deserves real compensation.

Police officers who use excessive force or engage in unethical conduct can be fired or asked to resign for their actions, but they do not "lose their license to police" and can easily be rehired by a different law enforcement department. Unlike other state-licensed professionals, there are no statewide standards of conduct that apply to all licensed police. Teachers, barbers, lawyers, and doctors all risk losing their ability to practice for serious misconduct. The same should be true for the police. We must break the cycle of firing and rehiring bad officers.

Virginians deserve better. We need a system that holds law enforcement officers accountable for their misconduct on the job. If an officer is fired or resigns because of misconduct, they should not be allowed to continue to be a police officer in Virginia. And people who are harmed by the unconstitutional actions of officers should be allowed to sue them in Virginia courts, with Virginia juries, and Virginia judges.

Message Recipients:
Your State Senator
Your State House Representative

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Your Message

The tragic murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Marcus-David Peters, and the recent protests across the Commonwealth, show there is an urgent need for fundamental change in policing. I urge you to use the upcoming special legislative session to start to dismantle anti-Black racism in policing by holding law enforcement officers accountable for their unconstitutional conduct.

The General Assembly needs to pass a law allowing people to sue police in Virginia courts, with Virginia juries, and with Virginia judges. The law must make clear that “qualified immunity” is not a defense to state lawsuits, so police no longer have this legal shield to hide behind. Real harm done to an individual deserves real compensation.

Additionally, our lax police certification law means there is no real accountability for officers who engage in excessive use of force or other professional misconduct. There are only a handful of ways for a police officer to lose their state certificate: conviction of a felony or certain misdemeanors, failing a drug test, or failing to do mandatory training. You should not have to be a criminal to lose your license to police people in Virginia. Nationwide, about 30,000 cops have been decertified and are no longer able to get a job in law enforcement. Virginia has contributed only 33 officers to that list – less than 1%. We need strong, uniform statewide conduct standards that apply to all police and protect all communities.

We deserve better. Use your short time in this special legislative session to create a system of accountability for police. Black and Brown Virginians depend on it.

Sincerely,

[First Name] [Last Name]
[Your Address]

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