Transparency News, 11/20/20


 November 20, 2020
follow us on TwitterFacebook & Instagram



state & local news stories
The Richmond Police Department publicly identified the members of its new community advisory committee this week, more than one month after the chief announced he had established the panel to forge greater trust between the department and city residents. Last month, Police Chief Gerald Smith had declined to name all but one of the members of his new External Advisory Committee, despite widespread calls in Richmond and nationwide for greater police transparency and accountability.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Democratic Party of Virginia has asked for Richmond’s voter registrar to quit or be fired. In a letter to the Richmond Electoral Board listing several concerns with General Registrar Kirk Showalter’s handling of the election, local and state party officials said she did not comply with the state’s open records laws and new election rules intended to help voters who mailed absentee ballots correct errors. State party officials sued Showalter last month, a week before the election, for allegedly failing to provide a list of voters at risk of having their ballots tossed, as required by the state’s open records laws and a law the General Assembly recently passed compelling localities to notify voters whose ballots have errors.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

A New River Valley state delegate is renewing his push to loosen up Virginia’s restrictive policies when it comes to the release of law enforcement’s criminal investigative files. Improving transparency for police records was one of a handful of unresolved issues from the General Assembly’s special session on police reform and other topics that wrapped up this month. Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery, introduced a bill that called for ending state law enforcement agencies’ practice of hiding away nearly all of their files from the public. Lawmakers said details in the bill needed further vetting, so they sent it to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act Council. A subcommittee of the council has met twice so that criminal justice advocates, law enforcement officials and lawmakers could work on a draft of a bill that will go before the council’s full committee before the start of the regular session that is scheduled to begin Jan. 13. The legislation would make this information available if the investigation is no longer “ongoing,” which the council is still working on defining. The draft would make the file available if the case has been resolved in court or three years have elapsed in which a decision was made to take no action in the investigation.
The Roanoke Times


editorials & columns
It matters greatly how we make laws in Virginia. Unfortunately, we face a health challenge — the COVID-19 pandemic — that makes it extremely difficult for the normal practice of lawmaking to proceed. If you have ever visited Richmond during a session of the General Assembly, you immediately know why. It’s about people constantly interacting in close proximity to each other. They literally breathe each other’s air — sometimes loudly. A prudent thing to be doing with a highly infectious virus about? Obviously, not. But that fact does not alter, not a whit, the nature and demands of what constitutes a legislative process. It is an intensely human business and the moment it stops being intensely human — which includes people in a contained space, arguing — it stops being at all. A recent legislative dust-up both underscores and extends the dilemma.
The Virginian-Pilot