As part of a statewide tour last week meeting local leaders, Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) met with Roanoke Valley officials including Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea Sr. (D), Sen. John Edwards (D) and law enforcement directors. Miyares underscored the crucial importance of having fully-funded, fully-staffed, fully-supported police departments in order to effectively fight crime and maintain tranquility.
Moreover, Miyares explained his office is still investigating the Governor Northam-era parole board scandal and promised no firm deadline to finish those probes. That issue involved alleged illegal behavior from the former parole board including releasing violent criminals early and without notifying the victims’ families or the Commonwealth’s attorneys. Roanoke Mayor Lea was a member of that board until he was removed by incoming Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) in January 2021. This Roanoke Star column from August 19, 2020 has more about that scandal.
Expressing outrage that violent crime has been rising across Virginia for the past several years and demonstrating a resolve to help stop it, Miyares has declared “Operation Ceasefire” in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In partnership with partner cities, local elected officials and law enforcement, the Attorney General claims the program is a proven approach to address violent criminal activity among repeat violent offenders. In addition to Roanoke City, Ceasefire aims to reduce violent crime in the following partner cities:
- Newport News
In an October 17 press release, the Office of the Attorney General pledged the following:
- This initiative will reduce violent crime by investing in gang prevention, support victim protection funding, supporting community policing in high crime neighborhoods, and getting the most violent and repeat offenders off our streets.
- Dedicating 5-6 cross-designated Special Assistant United States Attorneys with the OAG to prosecute violent crime.
- Additionally, the OAG will be hiring 2-3 Group Violence Intervention Coordinators to promote proven gang violence intervention strategies, coordinate resources, work with law enforcement, and develop relationships with the community to promote the implementation of evidence-based practices to reduce, and prevent, violent gun and gang crimes.
- The OAG, with the Governor’s support, will work with the General Assembly to fund a Victim/Witness Assistance program to provide funds for protective services to ensure that testifying does not put victims’ safety at risk.
- The General Assembly allocated $5 million for Ceasefire in the bipartisan budget earlier this year. It was passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor earlier this year. We’re working through the process, and expect it to be fully funded this winter.
In addition to “Operation Ceasefire” from the Office of the Attorney General, Governor Youngkin this week announced “Operation Bold Blue Line.” The governor stated:
“Across Virginia, people wake up and turn on the morning news to hear story after story of violence in their communities: homicides, shootings, and aggravated assaults,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “With a nearly 40% law enforcement vacancy rate in some cities in Virginia, with too few prosecutors actually prosecuting, and with diminished community engagement and witnesses less willing to come forward, Virginia’s blue line is getting far too thin.”
“Today, I am announcing Operation Bold Blue Line, a sustained effort to comprehensively address the challenge we see happening across all our communities. Building on the common themes from the 14 meetings of our Violent Crimes Task Force across Virginia, together, we are taking clear, actionable steps to make our communities safer.”
According to an announcement from the Office of the Governor, specifics of Operation Bold Blue Line include:
- Supporting existing law enforcement by finally fixing pay and wage compression.
- Supporting new law enforcement with a comprehensive recruiting effort to attract law enforcement from other states and develop homegrown talent.
- Providing more support for all law enforcement, including more training and equipment.
- Ensuring law enforcement is backed up by prosecutors that can and will put and keep violent offenders behind bars.
- Providing additional resources to victims and witnesses, and funding community partnerships to help stop violent crime before it happens.
Furthermore, to execute violent crime reduction strategies, Virginia will make additional investments to recruit, train, and support more Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) in key departments.
With some cities facing vacancy rates approaching 40%, the Virginia State Police still have more than 250 unfilled positions, and the Virginia Sheriff’s Association estimates vacancy rates nearing 20% in their departments.
To combat this, Governor Youngkin announced a comprehensive plan to fix wage compression issues and increase funding for partnering community police. Working with the General Assembly to increase funding to cities and counties with community policing and violence reduction tactics, this plan includes provisions to prohibit partnering localities from “defunding” their police departments.
Operation Bold Blue Line will work to recruit the finest officers from Virginia and across the Nation, as well. To do this, a $30 million nationwide and homegrown recruitment effort will be launched in tandem with a new 8-week fast-tracked lateral training academy to expeditiously certify law enforcement in Virginia.
Operation Bold Blue Line will increase dual-enrollment and create “Badge & Degree” programs to broaden the pipeline of students who want to join the Virginia law enforcement. Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera will work with SCHEV and the Virginia Community College System to both increase dual enrollment opportunities for high school students and better target existing taxpayer funded “G3” public safety spending to sworn law enforcement and recruits.
Operation Bold Blue Line will accelerate the disbursement of $75 million for equipment and training to state and local agencies, work with the Virginia Retirement System to ensure retired LEOs can collect benefits while working in new support roles, and collaborate with non-profits like Virginia Law Enforcement Assistance Program (VALEAP) to connect LEOs with resources to improve their mental and physical wellbeing.
Under the joint leadership of the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Criminal Justice Services, and the Department of Juvenile Justice, Operation Bold Blue Line will support community partners who support at-risk youth and focus on gang prevention and group violence intervention as well.
Operation Bold Blue Line will work with the General Assembly to fund a Victim/Witness Assistance Program to help police and prosecutors put violent criminals behind bars. The program would provide funds for reasonable lodging and relocation expenses, transportation, and the installation of systems and devices necessary to fulfill protective services.