Governor Terry McAuliffe has now created a special sub-panel of the Secure Commonwealth Panel, which began work on Tuesday, to act in an advisory capacity. Brian Moran, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, and the 30 additional members are to focus in particular on the use, by law enforcement agencies, of emerging technologies such as cameras to be worn on the body of the officer, as well as those that are now mounted on the dashboard of the patrol car.
The Governor’s selection of the members of the sub-panel includes a majority of those directly involved in public safety and homeland security, as well as a wider range of community interests represented as stakeholders. The Press Release from the Governor’s office explains:
“During the first two meetings, the sub-panel will explore the use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement officers. Members of the sub-panel will address topics such as data storage and retention, equipment, and rules for handling evidence.”
Secretary Brian Moran emphasized that personal privacy is also taken into consideration when considering public safety issues.
In October or 2014, Governor McAuliffe appointed Travis G. Hill as chief operating officer at the Virginia ABC, yet on Monday Travis Hill himself took direct control of the Department’s law-enforcement bureau; having reassigned its previous director to relinquish his oversight of field operations and training; and instead, to oversee the compliance of alcohol license holders with respect to their records, and other related administrative services.
Governor McAuliffe brought about these changes following two separate but very high-profile cases involving the citizen arrests in two separate incidents, of University of Virginia students, as ABC agents attempted to take the students into custody, which then raised serious questions for the general public — and for those responsible for the safety of University of Virginia students, about the adequacy of the agent-officers’ training and their level of professionalism.
Following the first incident in April of 2013, Elizabeth K. Daly brought a civil suit against the Commonwealth of Virginia and against each of the seven ABC agents involved in her arrest. The agents had wrongly identified some sparkling water as beer, that she and her friends had purchased — along with some cookie dough and ice cream. There had been weapons drawn and Ms. Daly fled in fear of her life; finding that the experience which she described as “horrifying,” had caused traumatic stress.
The Commonwealth then decided to settle the matter out of court, and all the charges against Ms. Daly were dropped and the record expunged. Attorney General Herring announced on 30 July that Ms. Daly was to receive a settlement of $212,500; as well as a letter from the ABC Board for presentation to any prospective employers which would explain the circumstances of her arrest.
The most recent case involved the arrest of 20-year-old Martese Johnson, a member of the University of Virginia honor committee, who was arrested outside the Trinity Irish pub in the early morning hours of March 18, of this year. Johnson had attempted to enter the establishment but was turned away because details relating to the address he provided to the owner-manager was not the one given on his Chicago drivers license.
Shortly after he left, however, he was approached by ABC agents, which somehow led to an altercation in which more than one of the ABC agents was required to bring Mr.. Johnson into custody, and which somehow involved his striking the ground — according to the widely-distributed video — in a way which caused injury to the front of Mr. Johnson’s head, which apears bloodied. The video captures only the part of the incident that depicted Mr. Johnson’s being already face-down the ground, as the officer-agents seem to be trying to calm him down in order to take him into custody, but he appears to be either unwilling or unable to cooperate.
There is no video that captures the initial interaction, however, and the complications that ensued – from what is shown on the video – appear to be related to Mr. Johnson’s having been either unwilling or unable to allow the uniformed officers to arrest him.
The two charges filed with the Court relating to this incident include § 18.2-388. Profane swearing. The statute provides the following description:
“If any person profanely curses or swears or is intoxicated in public, whether such intoxication results from alcohol, narcotic drug or other intoxicant or drug of whatever nature, he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”
Relating to this incident, also, was a second charge of obstructing justice, under § 18.2-460. Obstructing justice; penalty.
“A. If any person without just cause knowingly obstructs a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, or animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555 in the performance of his duties as such or fails or refuses without just cause to cease such obstruction when requested to do so by such judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, law-enforcement officer, or animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.”
It is not fully clear whether either Elizabeth Daly or Martese Johnson for formally charged with resisting arrest. Presumably this may be related to the notion of “obstructing justice” that has been very prevalent in recent incidents relating to the appropriate use of force — in balancing the interests of public safety against the enforcement of minor infractions of the public law.