RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Attorney General Mark Herring on Tuesday announced the creation of a new division within his office that will investigate complaints of discrimination in Virginia.
The new Office of Civil Rights will reshape the Division of Human Rights, an existing division that will expand under the new organization by adding nine staff members. The new division will be made up of seven attorneys and six professional staff members, including investigators, who will focus on claims of discrimination in employment, housing and policing.
“The Office of Civil Rights is really the culmination of a multi-year plan to expand the authority and the resources dedicated to protecting the civil rights of all Virginians,” Herring told WFXR’s Jackie DeFusco.
State lawmakers have introduced legislation to create such a division in the past, but those efforts failed in committee.
Del. Jay Jones (D-Norfolk), an attorney and Herring’s primary challenger, proposed creating a civil rights division within the attorney general’s office in November as a key part of his campaign.
On Tuesday, Jan. 5, Jones questioned the timing of Herring’s announcement and called on him to release all of the emails and documents around the development of the new Office of Civil Rights.
“The creation of an Office of Civil Rights is long overdue and has been a signature policy proposal of my campaign,” Jones said in a statement. “Why did Mark Herring finally see the light after seven years of inaction? The creation of a Civil Rights Division is too important to be a mere political stunt for Herring’s reelection campaign. We must know if he acted in the interest of the commonwealth or if he used taxpayer-funded resources to benefit his own reelection.”
Herring’s office said in a release that the attorney general supports legislation in this year’s General Assembly session to make the Office of Civil Rights permanent, an effort that Jones will also seek.
The new Office of Civil Rights can be reached by phone at (804) 225-2292, or by email at CivilRights@oag.state.va.us.
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