Lawmakers Talk about Next Steps for ABC Agents Law Enforcement Powers

Posted: Updated: Apr 13, 2015 12:04 PM
Del. Toscano and Del. Bell meet with PVCC student groups Del. Toscano and Del. Bell meet with PVCC student groups
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Two Charlottesville-area lawmakers say change may be coming for the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

57th District Delegate Rob Bell (R) and 58th District Delegate David Toscano (D) met with the Student Political Club and Student Veterans of America Club at Piedmont Virginia Community College Monday. 

"Any chance I get to get into a classroom and talk to students about what we're doing in the general assembly is a good day for me," said Toscano.

Following the event, the legislators spoke with NBC29 about their efforts moving forward to evaluate the ABC following a recent high-profile arrest. Two weeks ago, ABC agents arrested 20-year-old UVA student Martese Johnson outside a bar on the UVA Corner. The bloody arrest sparked allegations of racism by the ABC agents who were involved.

Bell and Toscano say it's hard to see why a state agency would need to handle underage drinking cases when local law enforcement already does that. 

“I intend to introduce legislation in the next session that will constrain the ABC in terms of their enforcement powers, especially enforcement powers of underage drinking which more appropriately belongs with local law enforcement,” Toscano stated.

The lawmakers are questioning whether the state agency should be able to arrest people.  “Do you need someone besides local law enforcement to handle everyday underage drinking cases, everyday drunk in public cases? It's hard to see why they need a state agency to do that,” Bell said.

This is the second time ABC's law enforcement powers have come under question in Charlottesville. In 2013, agents at Barracks Road Shopping Center swarmed another UVA student after mistaking her sparkling water for beer.

“At the end of the Barracks Road investigation, most people were unhappy with the way force was being handled at ABC. ABC said ‘We will make big changes. We'll change training,'” Bell stated.

The Virginia State Police Department is currently investigating Johnson's arrest. Decisions on ABC's enforcement powers will likely come after the investigation wraps up.

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