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Virginia Democrats draft proposal to reduce assault on law enforcement officers from felony to misdemeanor offense

This jarring proposal comes one year after Virginia's Democratic Governor signed a law making animal cruelty a felony offense.

Virginia Senate Democrats have proposed new criminal justice reforms, including one measure that will reduce an assault on law enforcement officers from a felony to a misdemeanor offense. This disturbing consideration comes only one year after Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam signed “Tommie’s Law,” making animal cruelty a felony offense in the Commonwealth.

The message Democrats are sending is clear: Animals are more valuable than the law enforcement officers serving and protecting the citizens within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Under current law, an assault charge on a public servant is a Class 6 Felony with, upon conviction, the assailant facing up to a minimum term of confinement of six months, according to Virginia Code. Per a document retweeted by the Virginia Senate Democrats, the proposals include downgrading the charge of assault on a police officer from a felony to a misdemeanor.

‘The Senate Democratic Caucus has led and is continuing to conduct a series of community conversations to discuss these issues and we have heard from the public that now is not the time for studies or delay and that changes must be made during our Special Session,” says the document, which is titled, “Senate Democratic Caucus Police Reform and Criminal Justice Equity Plan.”

It goes on to say, “We will continue to take public input and work with stakeholders, the House of Delegates, state agencies, and Governor Ralph Northam to refine these measures over the next 60 days.” The announcement of the downgrading of an assault charge on law enforcement is only one of 28 proposals for reforming the Commonwealth’s police and criminal justice systems, The Fort Hunt Herald reported. In November 2019, Virginia Democrats won control of the General Assembly, sealing a power shift within the once comfortably-red state.

In early June, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) issued a statement regarding her party’s plans for reform, which includes reduced funding for police departments. “We must reimagine the role of policing in our commonwealth and recommend changes in the budget that divest resources from policing and reinvest those resources in public education, health, crisis intervention, and other services that are preventative rather than punitive in nature,” Filler-Corn said to reporters when discussing plans for a special summer session the General Assembly will be convening this summer.

Almost 2,000 Virginia police officers have faced an assault in 2019, according to data released by the Virginia State Police. One law enforcement officer was killed in the line of duty that year.

This piece was written by Amy Johnston on July 1, 2020. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

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