Roanoke County Police Chief speaks on police reform legislation

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ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Law enforcement groups in the Commonwealth are expressing concerns for some legislation going through the General Assembly’s Special Session.

Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall joined groups from across Virginia to speak about some of the police reform bills. The chief says there are things they don’t agree with, but he did want to make it clear that it wasn’t all the police reform proposals.

According to Hall, there are some things that they do support and that do make sense, including increased accreditation requirements and expanded Crisis Intervention Team training.

However, Hall says there are also some things that he doesn’t think members of the General Assembly are aware of, such as the impacts of one bill that would limit search warrants.

The chief says no knock warrants are rare, so he didn’t see that part being an issue, but a bigger issue he has with the bill is that it would restrict search warrants to only be used during daylight hours.

“Crime is not a daytime occupation. It occurs 24/7, 365. And we have to be able to respond to that in those same time frames. Essentially restricting to daylight tells the criminal when you can have the evidence in your house. They’ll know when it is less likely for us to be there,” said Hall.

He says search warrants are about more than going through a house. They could include processes like going through the phone of someone who made a threat on social media or drawing blood from a drunk driver.

The Virginia Senate passed a bill that included more than a dozen police reforms. Democrats are calling it landmark legislation.

Hall says they support sections of the bill meant to weed out bad cops, including allowing officers to be de-certified for misconduct. However, they are concerned with other parts that limit search warrants and set stricter criteria for the use of deadly force.

According to Hall, they want to send the message that these issues are important and could impact citizens’ safety. He says he hopes in the end they can reach conclusions that are positive for Virginia’s public safety.

He also says it’s important to have defined outcomes for what they want this legislation to achieve.

“So we’re throwing a lot of stuff at the wall. In many cases because some activist group has suggested it or some other place has done it without really thinking through what we’re really trying to accomplish,” said Hall.

“We’re talking about something as complex as criminal justice. There’s not going to be an easy button that someone can press and make whatever problem we think we have to go away.”

Hall says it’s important for law enforcement and members of the General Assembly to work together.

A bill about qualified immunity did not pass. The chief says they thought the qualified immunity bill would have caused a number of issues.

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