The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is backing efforts by Virginia lawmakers, specifically the Virginia Black Legislative Caucus, to address criminal justice reform and excessive force by police in the upcoming General Assembly session in Richmond.
But not all supervisors backed the VLBC’s agenda, which includes reducing school resource officers, providing greater oversight over policing and creating a civilian review board with subpoena power.
The board’s three Republicans — supervisors Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin) and Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) — opposed the motion made by Supervisor Juli Briskman (D-Algonkian). The board discussed the item during the July 21 business meeting.
Among other aims, the VLBC specifically wants racism declared a public health crisis in the commonwealth, hate crimes expanded to include false 911 calls based on race, to require courts to publish racial and other demographic data of all low-level offenses, to expand the use of body cams, to require independent investigations for all police-involved shootings or deaths, to ban the use of chokeholds, to end no-knock warrants and to legalize marijuana.
Briskman said with Virginia law enforcement leaders condemning the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer, and offering recommendations to bring about reforms, she hoped the board would support the VLBC’s efforts.
“The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has these goals that I think we as a board can make a statement that we support,” Briskman said.
Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors voted in favor of the caucus’ aim to combat racism, hold law enforcement accountable, strengthen oversight and improve transparency.
In opposing the motion, Kershner said a number of VLBC’s priorities are “highly problematic.” He said he hasn’t observed in Loudoun many of the nationwide issues and controversies surrounding law enforcement.
Letourneau said he believes some the priorities are items the board would support, but he didn’t want to endorse the proposal due to a lack of specifics.
Buffington offered a friendly amendment to remove several priorities from the board’s support, but Briskman opposed.
“We agree something’s got to change, and I think that’s an important psychological step,” Ashburn Supervisor Mike Turner (D) said. “I think the more people that get behind that kind of thing, ‘We are willing to change,’ just that simple statement — ‘We are willing to change at every level of our society’ — then I think that moves us in the right direction.”
On July 17, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) called the General Assembly for a special session to be held Aug. 18 to adopt a budget based on the revised revenue forecast in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and to propose additional criminal justice and policing reform.
In April, Northam worked with legislators to “unallot,” or freeze, more than $2.2 billion in new spending in Virginia’s new biennial budget, allowing time for the commonwealth’s fiscal outlook to stabilize and in hopes of avoiding major cuts to new programs and state services.
Legislators will consider a number of items previously unalloted—including the governor’s proposed spending in early childhood education, tuition-free community college, affordable housing and improved broadband.
Loudoun’s supervisors directed county staff to bring forward state proposals deemed important for review and to poll the board once specific legislation is introduced.
That vote was 8-1, with Kershner opposed, stating he believed a vote in favor would be considered an act of supporting the agenda for the upcoming session.