Virginia police recruits will be required to take anti-discrimination training as part of a program to guard against racial profiling. The state also will provide training for current police officers and sheriff’s deputies. Traffic tickets will include a phone number for drivers to complain about an officer’s behavior.
The Washington Post says the changes result from nearly a year’s work by a panel of community leaders, law enforcement officials, and lawmakers. The Advisory Panel on Biased-Based Policing developed training standards and a model policy against biased policing for Virginia’s 300 law enforcement agencies. “We’ve approached such a sensitive area on a forward-thinking basis instead of a reactive basis,” said Rob Colorina of the Virginia-based Asian Business Alliance, a national organization. “It shows accountability, and it shows that the government cares.”
The state Department of Criminal Justice Services is developing pocket cards in 15 languages that officers can hand out to drivers who don’t speak English. The cards will explain that the officer will ask for the driver’s license and registration and will describe the other basics of a traffic stop. The state is compiling a list of interpreters available to officers.
Gov. Mark Warner said that “while racial profiling does not appear to be a pervasive or malicious problem in Virginia, there is a consensus in our law enforcement community, which I share, that we ought to provide departments and officers with the tools they need to assure that they always act fairly and without bias.”
Leonard Cooke, director of Virginia’s Department of Criminal Justice Services, said Virginia is the only state to mandate statewide anti-bias training for law enforcement officers. “I think you have to start someplace, and for us to put formalized training in place that will be incorporated across the state is a good start,” Cooke said. “We can grow and build from this.”