CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - When the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law was founded one year ago, its task was simple: find racially discriminatory laws still on the books in the commonwealth and recommend they be removed. Now, with racial tensions rising in the state and across the nation, the body is taking aim at current laws that may have unintended discriminatory impacts, with the goal of making recommendations before the General Assembly meets to discuss policing reform in August.
Cynthia Hudson, former deputy attorney general, serves as chair of the commission. She says that taking a look at unintended discriminatory laws was always the next logical step for the board.
“Statutes that in their application have the unintended effect of discriminating against minorities and other disadvantaged person,” Hudson explained.
Hudson, along with co-chair and UVA Law Professor Andrew Block, are leading the board and a team of student researchers from the University of Virginia School of Law. The researchers had actually already set their sights on several policy areas in anticipation of their work continuing.
“Identifying known areas documented areas of adverse racial disparity,” Hudson said. “Whether it is in housing, in voting, in education, in criminal justice, and three or four other areas of treatment in the Virginia code.”
Current events have moved policing reform to the top of that list, at the request of Governor Northam himself. The commission has already taken a big bite out of that challenge when they met for the first time in months this past week.
“Looking at data collection and transparency around police misconduct, particularly in the area of excessive use of force, law enforcement oversight, and accountability, limiting use of force by changes in policy and training, reducing the militarization of police and limiting arrests,” Hudson listed.
The commission hopes to have the policing reform recommendations finalized within the next few weeks ahead of the General Assembly special session scheduled for August. Their full interim report will be completed in November.