Following a public outcry over numerous highly-publicized incidents of police brutality, addressing problematic behavior among law enforcement officers is becoming a priority. As a result, Virginia leads a growing list of states holding officers accountable for behaviors that risk public safety.
The Commonwealth’s legislature now makes it possible to crack down on long-overlooked behaviors resulting in the decertification of more police officers.
Reasons before reform
Until 2021, these three offenses could result in the removal of Virginia police officers from active duty:
- Testing positive for illegal drugs
- Misdemeanor or felony criminal convictions
- Failure to fulfill officer training requirements
The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services tracks approximately 82 police decertifications between 1999 and 2021. However, many of these officers could find employment with other state police units.
Laws expanding decertification criteria
Coinciding with widespread protests concerning police brutality, Virginia’s adoption of new standards for law enforcement officer decertification is responsible for a significant rise in the number of officers who may no longer wear a badge.
Anti-brutality policies top the list of police reforms in Virginia and elsewhere. For example, the state and federal governments now partner to track officers and prevent them from resigning during investigations into their conduct to join another state’s police force by sharing their names through the National Decertification Index.
A strict honesty policy also impacts the number of Virginia police officer decertifications. This revision is responsible for decertifying about 24 officers between March 2021 and March 2022 for lying during formal investigations, exceeding the total number of decertifications over the previous decade.
Sweeping reforms in Virginia and around the country are drawing attention to widespread misbehavior by law enforcement officers. If an officer involved in your case has been decertified, you may have additional legal options to consider.