Governor orders training for ABC agents

By Cameron Vigliano
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order Wednesday meant to improve the law enforcement arm of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

This comes a week after McAuliffe called for the State Police to investigate ABC enforcement officers’ arrest of a University of Virginia student, Martese Johnson. Johnson, who needed 10 stitches in his head, said the agents used excessive force.

The governor issued a press release outlining Executive Order 40, which will require “the immediate retraining of all ABC special agents in the areas of use of force, cultural diversity, effective interaction with youth, and community policing.”

McAuliffe said the training must be completed by Sept. 1. Also under the executive order:

  • The ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement will now report to the agency’s chief operating officer.
  • Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security will convene an expert review panel to report to the governor on the agency’s mission, structure, policies and training and make recommendations regarding possible changes.
  • The ABC will update or enter into agreements “with local law enforcement agencies serving communities with state institutions of higher education, with the goal of improving collaboration, communication and delineation of expectations” regarding the enforcement of laws governing alcoholic beverages.

The news of Johnson’s arrest went viral after a picture of him, bloodied on the ground with officers hovering over, was taken by a bystander. Another picture of Johnson on the night of his arrest has been released by Twitter user Deray McKesson, this time showing him with his feet chained.

Martese Johnson, who is African American, was charged with obstruction of justice and public intoxication.

“Keeping Virginia families and communities safe is the highest responsibility of the governor and state government. In performing that duty, we also have a responsibility to ensure that agencies charged with public safety have the training, resources and oversight they need to do their jobs professionally and in a way that promotes and protects the public trust,” McAuliffe said in announcing his executive order.

“Recent events involving special agents of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in Charlottesville have underscored longstanding concerns about the agency’s Bureau of Law Enforcement and exposed the need for more extensive training and oversight. While we must await results from the investigations by Virginia State Police and the office of the commonwealth’s attorney in Charlottesville before drawing conclusions about that particular incident, it is not too soon to take proactive steps to improve ABC’s Bureau of Law Enforcement.”

This instance was not the first time that ABC law enforcement officers have faced scrutiny over their arrest tactics. In 2013, another U.Va. student, Elizabeth Daly, was wrongfully arrested for what ABC officers thought was beer but turned out to be a case of sparkling water.

During Daly’s arrest, officers without uniforms surrounded her SUV; one had his gun drawn, and another attempted to smash her car window with a flashlight. She spent a night in jail and was charged with assaulting officers after fleeing the scene in her vehicle. Daly said she didn’t know the men were law enforcement officers.

The charges against Daly were later dropped. She filed a lawsuit, and the case was settled for $212,500.

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