Youngkin to ask Virginia legislature for funds to bolster law enforcement

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NORFOLK, Va. — Gov. Glenn Youngkin said Monday he would ask the Legislature for $30 million to mount an aggressive campaign to recruit police officers from other states, as part of a broader effort to strengthen the law enforcement at a time when violent crime is on the rise.

Youngkin (R) announced his plans in downtown Norfolk, surrounded by police and local leaders from across the state – including some black mayors he was courting – as well as Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears ( R) and Attorney General Jason S Miyares (R).

In addition to recruiting more officers, Youngkin is seeking to raise their salaries, provide them with better training and equipment, hire more prosecutors, and increase support for victims and witnesses of crime.

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The General Assembly has already included funding for some of these measures in the budget. For the rest, including the out-of-state recruiting effort, Youngkin will have to ask for the money when the legislature reconvenes in January.

The Governor has consolidated existing and planned programs under one splashy name – Operation Bold Blue Line Initiative — and gave him a campaign rally-like deployment, with “Take care of business” blaring as he walked in and out.

“Over the past few years, too many of our fellow Virginians have been victims of violent crime,” he said. “Across Virginia, people wake up and turn on their televisions or pick up their newspaper or pick up their iPhones every day and they hear horrible stories. … It makes you want to cry.

Fatal shootings across the state are up 39% in the first seven months of this year compared to the same period in 2019, Youngkin said, noting that violent crime “takes its toll in some communities compared to others”.

A dozen of the communities most affected by violent crime will partner with the state to address the problem. They are: Norfolk, Hampton. Petersburg, Roanoke, Newport News, Portsmouth, Richmond, Chesapeake, Danville, Martinsville, Lynchburg and Emporia.

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Miyares issued a separate press release from the governor’s, saying he had “declared a ceasefire in the Commonwealth of Virginia.” It was a reference to Operation Ceasefire, a program launched in other states that targets violent repeat offenders.

The General Assembly included $5 million in the biennial budget passed earlier this year for “ceasefire” grants available for local gang intervention programs.

Miyares also plans to bring in five or six federal prosecutors to help prosecute violent crimes and hire two to three violence response coordinators. He also plans to seek money from the General Assembly to fund victim and witness assistance programs, which would provide money for protective services.

With the increase in crime has come a decrease in police forces, Youngkin said, noting that in some cities, police department vacancy rates are approaching 40%.

“We need to get more street badges – period,” he said.

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One way to do this is to hire police away from the states.

“We will launch an effort here at home and across the country to recruit 2,000 law enforcement officers to serve in Virginia,” he said, adding that he would seek $30 million for a “ nationwide campaign to bring in sworn law enforcement heroes from other states — especially states that don’t support law enforcement.

He also said he would do more to encourage Virginians to get into law enforcement, including through education programs that allow students to earn community college credits while in high school. And he said he would explore creating a “badge and degree program” that would allow recruits to graduate “at little or no cost”.

“We must inspire the next generation of Virginians in this most noble career,” he said.

The state’s G3 program, launched under Democrat Ralph Northam, provides community college tuition assistance in certain high-demand fields, including law enforcement. Youngkin said he would “prioritize” law enforcement in the program, but did not elaborate. Spokeswoman Macaulay Porter later clarified that Youngkin wanted to increase public safety registrations under the G3 program.

He also said they would make an effort to bring retired law enforcement officers back, either in their previous roles or in new roles such as trainers or school resource officers.

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Raising wages will be part of the equation. The current state budget has given the police a raise, but Youngkin wants to build on that next year.

Ramin Fatehi, the solicitor for the Commonwealth of Norfolk, said he and several other prosecutors had been invited to the event but stayed away as they “did not receive any meaningful information” about it. it was – despite “multiple” prior requests.

He praised Youngkin and Miyares for pledging to fund witness protection programs, noting that he and other prosecutors have long supported this.

But he raised concerns about Miyares’ plan to bring federal prosecutors into his office, saying the attorney general would likely “poach” them from understaffed Commonwealth prosecutor’s offices. “Other police-centric proposals are promising, and I will leave it to the police to respond to them,” Fatehi tweeted. “The big question is whether promises made become promises kept.”

Youngkin left Norfolk to attend a celebration for the rapper and Portsmouth native Missy Elliot at Manor High School in that city, where he read a proclamation in his honor in front of thousands of spectators on the school’s football field. When the Norfolk State University marching band started, Youngkin left – shortly before torrential rain.

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