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Marcus-David Peters' family calls police reform bills 'false victories'

Posted at 9:13 AM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 09:13:10-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The family of Marcus-David Peters said bills that focus on policing in Virginia and are up for debate Tuesday at a House Public Safety Committee meeting, have come up short of their intended goals.

The bills at issue include the Marcus Alert and Civilian Review Panels of police.

Peters was shot and killed by a Richmond Police Officer after he charged at the officer along the side of Interstate 95 in May 2018. The shooting was ruled justified, but Peters' family argued their loved one was in the midst of a crisis and needed help, not police intervention.

The Marcus Alert Bill, as originally written, would establish a system by which mental health professionals and other experts act as first responders to situations in which someone is suspected of experiencing a mental health crisis. Under the bill, police would act as a back-up and get involved if the situation proves dangerous.

That bill was altered in the General Assembly and merged with another bill, according to the Peters family.

"Specifically, the McPike bill does not include any clarification as to whether the police or mental health professionals would be in charge of the response effort; any stipulations that police would only be allowed to use nonlethal means of restraint; any provisions for accountability; and any provisions for community care," Peters' sister Princess Blanding said in an email statement. "For the past two years, the family of Marcus-David Peters has been fighting alongside many other community activists to hold police officers accountable for behaviors that most adversely affect the Black community, and also ensure that having a mental health crisis does not result in a death sentence."

She also expressed concern about the bill not being named after her brother.

The second bill mentioned in the statement would allow cities and counties would establish law enforcement civilian review panels in an effort to hold police more accountable and transparent.

"In its current form, Sen. Hashmi’s bill has some very positive aspects, but falls short of our demands by (1) only “enabling”, not mandating, that localities create Civilian Review Boards, and (2) not explaining how board members would be selected," Blanding wrote. "We have been demanding elected boards, but the current bill would allow board members to be appointed. Taken together, these two deficiencies would mean that any locality could decline to create such a board, or, if it did decide to create one, could ensure that its members would not seriously challenge police practices."

Blanding said while she is aware others in the police reform movement may support the bills, she and her family cannot.

"We refuse to declare false victories when it is clear that no victories have been won," she wrote. "Our family will continue to fight for real progressive reform, not token excuses for change that only allow the Democratic Party which is the majority in both the House and Senate to claim credit for progress that has in fact not been accomplished."

You can read her full statement here.