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​LETTER: Remove law enforcement powers from the ABC

To the Editor:

I am a third-year law student at the University of Virginia School of Law, and also attended U.Va. for my undergraduate education. I write in support of a bill proposed by Del. Benjamin L. Cline that would remove law enforcement powers from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Del. Cline has stated that he is “always willing to advocate for it in the future if there appears to be a need, and there does appear to be a need.”

In light of the arrest and injury of Martese Johnson, it is time for the laws to be enforced by traditional law enforcement officers and not ABC officers. This latest incident comes two years after non-uniformed ABC officers startled and arrested U.Va. student Elizabeth Daly after buying sparkling water. Both of these incidents led to widespread disapproval of ABC treatment of U.Va. students.

Unlike traditional law enforcement officers, ABC officers do not have the same relationship with the communities they are supposed to serve. Their myopic focus on enforcing underage drinking laws means they do not care about the wider safety and trust of the community. As a result, their interactions with students are unnecessarily hostile and aggressive.

Del. Cline’s bill would be a step in the right direction toward rebuilding trust with the community. The General Assembly should take up the bill when it comes back into session, and Gov. McAullife should support such efforts. Concerned citizens should contact their elected officials to support such a bill because this is a bipartisan issue that all Virginians can get behind.

Sam Shirazi

Law ’15

CLAS ’10

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