ABC Review Panel Debates Arresting Powers of Department's Agents

Posted: Updated: Jun 16, 2015 10:18 PM

The debate over the law enforcement practices of the Virginia Department Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) continues in Richmond this week.

The group tasked with reforming the department met Monday to discuss ways to improve community relations. They must also decide whether the ABC should have any arresting authority at all.

Governor Terry McAuliffe commissioned the panel after ABC agents arrested University of Virginia student Martese Johnson in late March.

Photos and video of the bloody arrest, which caused Johnson to need 10 stitches, drew national attention.

The ABC has also been criticized for their arrest of Elizabeth Daly, also a UVA student. ABC agents converged on Daly as she was leaving a Charlottesville Harris Teeter in April 2013. The agents thought the sparkling water she had was alcohol.

Now, the panel is debating if those arresting powers should be given over to local law enforcement.

UVA Student Council President and panel member Abraham Axler says training for ABC agents was a focus of Monday's meeting.

“ABC is spending about 70 percent of its time now looking at regulation. And you have to see, is it better for local law enforcement authorities to take over the arresting parts of ABC. But that's something we're going to have to parse very carefully to make sure there's still a functional agency,” Axler said.

The governor is requiring the department to re-train its more than 120 officers.

The panel includes law enforcement officials, lawmakers, restaurant owners and members of the ABC itself. They will deliver a report with recommendations to Governor McAuliffe no later than November 1. 

The panel will meet again on July 8.

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