COLUMN — New rules put law enforcement officers in danger
Published 6:00 am Friday, March 19, 2021
The 2021 General Assembly session concluded its work on March 1, and as promised last week, I wanted to continue to tell you about some of the bills that passed and failed this year that may have an effect on your lives.
Prior to 2020, Virginia boasted one of the lowest violent crime rates in the country, and the lowest rate of criminal recidivism. Those are stats Virginians should be proud of. Virginians can go to work, raise a family and socialize knowing that their community is one of the safest in the nation. With Democrats newly in control, and with newly passed legislation during the 2020 special session and the 2021 session, these rankings will likely change for the worse.
The Democrats’ assault on public safety stretched over two sessions. During the 2020 special session, Democrats hammered law enforcement with restrictions that put them and the public in danger, changes to law that could lead to law enforcement officers losing their homes to frivolous lawsuits, and generally make it easier to be a crook than a cop.
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Their focus shifted to coddling criminals in 2021, voting to reduce sentences and let more and more felons out of prison, and make it harder to keep dangerous suspects behind bars.
Democrats made it clear that they intended to continue their assault on law enforcement and their efforts to comfort violent felons. To some extent, they succeeded.
The new majority was able to pass House Bill 2263 that repealed the death penalty in Virginia for all killers, including mass murderers, terrorists and those who kill law enforcement officers. They enjoyed being able to brag that Virginia is the first southern state to ban the death penalty.
Senate Bill 1266 will make it easier for those accused of violent crimes such as rape and murder to get out of jail on bond. That same legislation also makes it easier for people who have the right connections or a lot of money to get out of jail.
Republicans did win on one key issue, beating legislation (House Bill 2231) that would have reduced sentences for a number of crimes, including murder, rape, abduction, child pornography and more. Truth in sentencing is working. At a time when shootings and other crime is rising, and Virginians are buying guns to arm themselves at a record pace, House Democrats are seeking to put more dangerous felons back into Virginia communities.
Democrats had sought to remove almost all mandatory minimum sentences, and then give offenders a new hearing — dragging witnesses back into court to relive their nightmares if they wanted to keep their assailants in jail. Democrats were divided among themselves, and Republicans remained steadfast in their opposition.
Once again, the Democrats introduced legislation (House Bill 2045) that would have made it easier to sue police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us. State law gives police a higher degree of immunity from lawsuits while serving their community. That immunity was created by the General Assembly to stop frivolous lawsuits. I am glad to report this legislation did not make it out of committee this year.
We were also proud to give raises to our hard-working law enforcement officers who give so much for so little. I have always and will always stand to protect law enforcement and the victims of crime.
Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@house.virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.