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Attorney General of Virginia

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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Charlotte Gomer, Director of Communication
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING URGES U.S. SENATE TO PASS THE GEORGE FLOYD JUSTICE IN POLICING ACT OF 2021

~ House previously passed the measure that gives state attorneys general the authority to investigate unconstitutional policing ~

RICHMOND – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of ten attorneys general in urging the U.S. Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, which will reform law enforcement agencies nationwide and give state attorneys general clear statutory authority to investigate patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing. In June 2020, Attorney General Herring similarly urged Congress to give state attorneys general the authority to conduct “pattern and practice” investigations into instances of unconstitutional policing by expanding the law enforcement misconduct section of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

 

Attorney General Herring and his colleagues issued a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calling on the Senate to pass H.R. 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021. The legislation requires law enforcement agencies throughout the country to enact reforms and gives state attorneys general authority to investigate and address patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing, as well as acquire data about use of excessive force by officers.

 

“Instances of police misconduct and brutality cannot go unchecked in Virginia or around the country,” said Attorney General Herring. “I’m incredibly proud that last year I helped to get legislation passed that gives my office the ability to conduct ‘pattern and practice’ investigations and giving this same authority to every attorney general’s office in the country is such an important step in changing our criminal justice system for the better. Over the past year, we have worked hard to dismantle systemic injustices at every level of government and passing this important legislation will move our country one step closer to equality, opportunity, and justice for all.”

 

Attorney General Herring and his colleagues are calling on the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 as the trial is underway of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of the May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd. The legislation is aimed at improving police accountability, transparency in policing practices, and police training and policies. The measure has been amended to give state attorneys general authority to conduct pattern-or-practice investigations, particularly in the event that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fails to use its authority to act. The legislation gives state attorneys general authority to issue subpoenas as part of “pattern and practice” investigations and, when necessary, take action in federal district court. The legislation also authorizes appropriations of up to $100 million for a federal grant program to help state attorneys general fund pattern-or-practice investigations during fiscal years 2021 to 2023.

 

In addition to enabling attorneys general to conduct pattern-or-practice investigations, H.R. 1280 would allow them to acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers. Such data would be especially important when identifying law enforcement agencies that have above-average rates of excessive force complaints, which can help identify at-risk law enforcement agencies before a devastating incident occurs. For example, Chauvin had 18 prior complaints filed against him with the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs.

 

Last summer, during the General Assembly special session on criminal justice reform, Attorney General Herring worked with Senator Louise Lucas and Delegate Alfonso Lopez to pass legislation that empowers the Attorney General of Virginia to conduct “pattern and practice” investigations of law enforcement agencies to identify and put a stop to unconstitutional practices, such as patterns of excessive force, illegal searches, biased policing, or other unconstitutional practices. This groundbreaking bill made Virginia one of the first states in the country to give its attorney general this power. During the special session, the General Assembly also enacted many of Attorney General Herring’s criminal justice and policing reform priorities to reduce brutality and abuses of power by law enforcement, increase transparency, accountability, justice, and equality, and address disparities throughout the criminal justice system from policing to re-entry.

 

Joining Attorney General Herring in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon and the District of Columbia.

 

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