Imposing a curfew on the City of Richmond is an extraordinary action that should not be done lightly or as an attempt to shut down unwanted protests. The curfew suppresses everyone’s First Amendment rights and invites selective enforcement at a time when Black people are struggling to be heard on the issue of racist policing.
More than 200 people were criminalized in Richmond last night because of the curfew. Laws against property damage and other actions can be enforced without adding this restriction, and we ask Mayor Levar Stoney to lift the curfew immediately and stop criminalizing protesters and bystanders. If police witness misdemeanors being committed, we urge them to follow Virginia Code and issue summonses rather than take people into custody, exposing them to additional risk from COVID-19 in jail.
Instead of escalating violence against Black people and protesters, we should be focused on making sure all members of our community are heard, respected and treated equally.
City leaders and law enforcement officers should use less restrictive options to address the protests. First and foremost, they must deliver justice for Marcus-David Peters, who was killed two years ago by Richmond police, and the many Black Richmonders who have experienced racist policing tactics. Instead of escalating violence against Black people and protesters, we should be focused on making sure all members of our community are heard, respected and treated equally.
The ACLU of Virginia calls for the following reforms to the Richmond Police Department and all police in the Commonwealth:
- Hold police accountable. Require all police and sheriff’s departments to be accredited. Strengthen professional standards for officers and require decertification for misconduct.
- End policing of low-level offenses. Legalize marijuana possession for adults, identify alternatives to prosecuting offenses like disorderly conduct, panhandling and trespassing by mentally ill or homeless people.
- Implement statewide standards for use-of-force and bodycam policies. Ensure that use-of-force policies recognize preservation of life is paramount and all bodycam policies have certain identical provisions across jurisdictions.
- Abolish policing for profit. Fund law enforcement with general fund dollars, not fines and forfeitures.
- Establish civilian authority over policing. Require approval by governing body of acquisition of military equipment or surveillance technology. Empower a civilian review board to examine police misconduct, including giving them subpoena power.
- Conduct independent investigations & prosecutions. Independent investigators and prosecutors must hold law enforcement and correctional officers accountable after an incident in which a person in custody is seriously injured or killed.
- Require transparency. Require collection and public release of data on critical policing activity, such as stop-and-frisk, use of force and arrests with demographic breakdown.