CRIMINAL JUSTICE + POLICING

COMMENTARY

What the United States can learn from Canada’s cannabis clarity

BY: - May 5, 2021

By Michael J. Armstrong and Paul Seaborn The inherent contradictions of American cannabis laws seem to appear in the news almost every week. At the state level, for example, Virginia recently became the latest jurisdiction to allow adult cannabis use, effective this July 1. But just days later, a court upheld United States federal tax laws that […]

COMMENTARY

Can training solve over-aggressive policing?

BY: - April 29, 2021

Police officers in Windsor’s small, now-maligned department will receive training next month on best practices and de-escalation techniques during encounters with citizens, the executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police told me this week.  Dana Schrad said her organization helped set up the two-day training session, following the release of video into […]

Virginia legalized it, but people in prison on marijuana charges will stay there under new law

BY: - April 23, 2021

Marijuana will be legal to possess and grow in Virginia on July 1, but people serving jail and prison sentences related to the drug will remain behind bars under legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this month. Lawmakers had considered including a provision that would have granted resentencing hearings to people incarcerated on certain […]

Minnesota cop guilty of murder: Floyd’s killing reverberated across the country, sparking change in Virginia

BY: - April 20, 2021

The jury has spoken, finding Derek Chauvin guilty of murder in the death of George Floyd. The former Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of Floyd, who was handcuffed and face down on the pavement, for more than nine minutes last May, a killing that sparked nationwide protests and a reckoning on race and […]

Virginia public defenders face resistance in push for pay parity with prosecutors

BY: - April 20, 2021

In many Virginia courtrooms, commonwealth’s attorneys charged with prosecuting crimes continue to earn significantly more than the government employees responsible for defending the accused. It’s an imbalance that bakes inequity into the criminal justice system, say public defenders, whose state-funded offices represent poor defendants who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford an attorney. They say […]

‘You’re being used as a political tool’: Recording details Northam officials’ grilling of watchdog agency

BY: - April 17, 2021

When top aides to Gov. Ralph Northam sat down last summer to meet with the state inspector general, whose office had just issued a critical watchdog report on the Virginia Parole Board, Northam Chief of Staff Clark Mercer opened by saying he wanted to hear what was being done to prevent future reports from “getting […]

Windsor, site of viral traffic stop, leans heavily on ticketing to fund its budget

BY: - April 16, 2021

The aggressive treatment of an Army lieutenant during a routine traffic stop in the tiny town of Windsor may have surprised some local residents, many of whom called video of the incident a shocking and brazen display of police misconduct. But the stop itself did not: The town is one of a handful of jurisdictions […]

COMMENTARY

Police are not monolithic – all good or all bad. They’re both. They’re human.

BY: - April 15, 2021

Rarely does truth confront us in such dramatic, split-screen relief as it did Tuesday with diametrically opposed, real-time visions into American policing and what should be clear to all by now: Law enforcement is not monolithic. Those who wear badges are heroes and villains, goodness and evil in varying degrees — often in the same […]

Windsor Police say viral outrage, not misconduct, led to officer’s firing

BY: - April 14, 2021

Windsor Police Chief Rodney Riddle said Wednesday he fired an officer involved in a viral traffic stop because video of the incident inspired widespread outrage, not because he initially believed the conduct itself warranted termination. Riddle was speaking to the media for the first time since details of the stop and subsequent lawsuit were made […]

COMMENTARY

‘Unnecessary opportunities for strife and use of force’: It’s time to re-evaluate police traffic stops

BY: - April 14, 2021

The traffic stop by two Windsor police officers of an Army officer should never have become a viral video. The fact that it did, and that a federal lawsuit has been filed, means better training of officers is mandatory in law-enforcement departments across Virginia. Perhaps more importantly, the mindset of “compliance above all else” — […]

Viral police stop in small Virginia town renews focus on qualified immunity

BY: and - April 13, 2021

WINDSOR — Standing across from the gas station where an Army lieutenant became another viral example of aggressive policing directed at a person of color, members of the Virginia NAACP called Monday for lawmakers to hold a special session on an unfinished piece of the police reform agenda. Though the Democratic-controlled General Assembly twice failed […]

COMMENTARY

Chauvin is a rotten apple in a decaying barrel

BY: - April 13, 2021

We’re supposed to be thrilled that the Minneapolis Police Department has smashed the blue wall of silence to get former officer Derek Chauvin convicted of the murder of George Floyd. The commander in charge of the field training program and another who leads the homicide unit condemned Chauvin’s actions on the evening of Memorial Day, […]