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McAuliffe signs executive order, improves ABC law enforcement

Excessive force investigation continues following Martese Johnson arrest

<p>Governor McAuliffe passed Executive Order 40 on Wednesday to address the "need for more extensive training and oversight" in the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control. </p>

Governor McAuliffe passed Executive Order 40 on Wednesday to address the "need for more extensive training and oversight" in the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control. 

Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed Executive Order 40 on Wednesday, taking steps to improve law enforcement in the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The legislation was introduced following questions about the use of excessive force in the arrest of third-year College student Martese Johnson by ABC special agents March 18.

According to a press release, the executive order takes four preliminary steps to “address broader concerns about ABC law enforcement,” including requiring more training for ABC agents, improving accountability and oversight, examining the need for additional steps in the agency’s structure and policies and improving cooperation and communication with local communities and Virginia colleges.

“Keeping Virginia families and communities safe is the highest responsibility of the Governor and state government,” the legislation reads. “Recent events involving special agents of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) in Charlottesville have underscored longstanding concerns about the agency’s Bureau of Law Enforcement and exposed the need for more extensive training and oversight.”

Johnson was arrested around 12:45 a.m. March 18 by Alcoholic Beverage Control agents near Trinity Irish Pub on the Corner, after being denied entrance into the pub following discrepancies over his identification. During the arrest Johnson sustained a head injury requiring 10 stitches. Student and statewide responses since the event have questioned the use of force in the arrest.

An independent Virginia State Police investigation into the use of force during the arrest, called for by McAuliffe, is still ongoing as the state of Virginia proceeds with an administrative review and the Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney carries out a criminal investigation.

“While we must await results from the investigations by Virginia State Police and the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Charlottesville before drawing conclusions about that particular incident, it is not too soon to take proactive steps to improve ABC’s Bureau of Law Enforcement,” the statement read.

The executive order calls for ABC special agents to be retrained in “the areas of use of force, cultural diversity, effective interaction with youth, and community policing.” Agents are required to complete the retraining by Sept. 1, 2015. Additionally, the ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement is now required to “report directly to the Chief Operating Officer of the ABC, who is responsible for the day-to-day management of all ABC functions.”

To “review the agency’s mission, structure, policies and training and make recommendations regarding any identified changes needed,” a panel of expert representatives will be convened by the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security to present a report to the Governor by Nov. 1.

The fourth step requires the ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement to “review, update or enter into appropriate Mutual Aid Agreements, or other Memoranda of Understanding, with local law enforcement agencies serving communities with state institutions of higher education, with the goal of improving collaboration, communication and delineation of expectations regarding enforcement activities performed by ABC special agents in these communities.”

Daniel Watkins, Johnson’s attorney at Williams Mullen, said the executive order will be good both for law enforcement and the community.

"The measures the Governor has taken in the executive order today illustrate that we all share a common belief: it is important for all law enforcement agencies to act within the bounds of the law,” Watkins said in a statement. “Increased training, transparency, and accountability are good for law enforcement as well as the communities they serve."

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