The state Alcoholic Beverage Control has responded to some of the ongoing criticism following an incident last April - with a policy change.
The story has been making national headlines after all the charges related to the incident were dropped last week.
Now the ABC says it is changing policy when it comes to undercover operations. It comes after the ABC came under fire for what three young women call a frightening experience.
Twenty-year-old Elizabeth Daly and two of her roommates had bought sparkling water, cookie dough and ice cream when they were approached by undercover agents outside the Harris Teeter in the Barracks Road Shopping Center. One of them even drew his weapon, but the women say they didn't realize they were agents.
Daly was arrested after trying to drive away and allegedly hitting the officers - but those charges were dropped.
Now ABC says a uniformed agent will be on sight for these undercover stings.
In the statement, ABC says:"It is the Department's belief that this change will further clarify the nature of the stop by law enforcement and help put citizens who are approached at ease regarding the identity of the officer or officers."
The statement goes on to say that this incident is certainly an anomaly. "Out of tens of thousands of contacts between ABC Special Agents and suspected underage alcohol purchasers over many years, this is the only time we have experienced an escalation of events to such a serious degree."
ABC says it is still investigating the incident, and will determine if any additional policy changes are needed after proper review.
The statement also says the group has been working with the University of Virginia to familiarize the community and students about how to ensure safety during a stop.
You can read the full statement below.
Virginia ABC would like to issue the following statement. Due to an ongoing review these are all the details we are able to release at this time.
The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is concerned about the unfortunate incident of April 11, 2013, in Charlottesville, which resulted in the arrest of a UVA student for eluding police and assaulting police officers. ABC Enforcement has been enforcing the laws related to underage possession of alcoholic beverages for over 75 years. This incident is certainly an anomaly. Out of tens of thousands of contacts between ABC Special Agents and suspected underage alcohol purchasers over many years, this is the only time we have experienced an escalation of events to such a serious degree. Our agency, like any other law enforcement agency, has always been, and remains, committed to monitoring and learning from each challenging experience and we endeavor to always improve our operations.
ABC agents are trained to Virginia state law enforcement certification standards, as are all law enforcement officers in Virginia. In fact, ABC generally hires experienced police officers from local and state agencies. They have received their law enforcement training at the State Police Academy, at city and county police academies, and at the regional criminal justice academies where all other police officers in Virginia are trained. Agents apply exactly the same standards for investigative detentions and use of force as most other police agencies in the United States.
Last Friday, the Virginia Department of ABC began a thorough review of the incident. As previously stated, ABC does not comment on pending or ongoing investigations or review of cases, and has purposely not commented on much of the misinformation being reported as we await completion of the full review. The culture at ABC is one of transparency and of safeguarding the public trust; therefore, we take all citizen complaints very seriously. Consistent with our practice of making every effort to improve our law enforcement procedures based on experience, rather than wait for the results of the review, ABC is implementing an immediate change in operational practice. This change should also help alleviate some of the concerns identified through public feedback.
In the future, when conducting these types of operations, there will be at least one ABC Agent in a police uniform to act as a contact person once the plain clothes agent has developed reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause to approach individual(s) they believe have violated the law. It is the Department's belief that this change will further clarify the nature of the stop by law enforcement and help put citizens who are approached at ease regarding the identity of the officer or officers. The agency will determine whether additional policy or procedural changes are appropriate following the review.
It should also be pointed out that this event occurred in April of this year. Since that time, ABC enforcement personnel have been meeting with groups at the University of Virginia in an attempt to familiarize the community with ABC law enforcement operations and educate students regarding how to ensure their safety during a stop.
Virginia law and state human resources policy prohibit the agency from disclosing personnel records, including any review of the performance of employees.
Most importantly, we at ABC are very grateful no one was seriously injured and all parties involved are safe.
ABC's previous statement as released follows:
Agents were working in the area, concentrating on underage possession enforcement. An agent observed what appeared to be an underage person in possession of what appeared to be a case of beer, and approached her to investigate. The agent identified herself as a police officer and was displaying her badge.
Other agents did not join the incident until the subject refused to cooperate. Rather than comply with the officers' requests, the subject drove off, striking two officers. She was not arrested for possessing bottled water, but for running from police and striking two of them with a vehicle.
The agents were acting upon reasonable suspicion and this whole unfortunate incident could have been avoided had the occupants complied with law enforcement requests. We take all citizen complaints seriously and the matter is currently under review by the ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement.
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