SENATE DEMOCRATS ISSUE JOINT STATEMENT ON RECENT EVENTS - GEORGE FLOYD, BREONNA TAYLOR, AHMAUD ARBERY

RICHMOND – The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, under the leadership of Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Caucus Chair Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton), issued the following statement today on the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

 This has certainly been a challenging time for so many across our nation. We feel a variety of emotions; anger, sadness, grief, and even rage. So many have been killed simply because of the color of their skin.

 The Senate Democratic Caucus grieves with these families and many others who have been wrongfully killed.

 While we grieve for these families and so many others, we condemn police brutality and we condemn institutional racism that has generated the protests we are seeing in Virginia and the nation. The deployment of mobile phone and security cameras are shining a light on practices whose roots run centuries deep.

 We cannot emphasize strongly enough, however, that the actions of a few must not tarnish the whole. ‘To protect and to serve’ -- that is the motto of our brave men and women in uniform. Men and women of every color and creed who put themselves in harm’s way day in and day out to keep our communities safe. For every one bad actor, there are hundreds of good actors. And we must remember that, especially in these difficult times.

 Fixing our dysfunctional criminal justice system has long been a top legislative and budget priority for our caucus. We are proud that last session we adopted laws requiring state and local law enforcement to record the race, ethnicity, age and gender of every Virginian stopped by law enforcement on a statewide basis, as well as the actions taken in such stops, for reporting purposes. We established reporting requirements for incidents involving school resource officers. We are also proud that last session we raised Virginia's misdemeanor-felony threshold from being the lowest in the nation, codified the end of license suspensions for unpaid court fines, decriminalized marijuana possession, prohibited disorderly conduct charges in school settings, raised the age for juveniles to be charged as adults, gave magistrates the discretion to set bail in all cases, and authorized resentencing for individuals wrongfully sentenced after the Fishback case.

 We still have much work to do over the coming sessions to incorporate mandatory implicit bias training for law enforcement across Virginia, reform parole, sentencing, expungement, barrier crimes, and eliminate mandatory minimum sentences in a system that has disproportionately impacted Black Virginians. The Senate Democratic Caucus stands with organizations who are calling for a comprehensive review of our criminal justice system. We can’t wait any longer. The time is now to act, before it’s too late and we lose another life.

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