Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) on Tuesday issued his first veto since taking office in January, the Washington Examiner reported.
The Democrat-sponsored measure, which cleared the state’s Republican-majority House of Delegates with bipartisan support, would have allowed the Arlington County Board of Supervisors to directly hire an “independent policing auditor” to oversee reviews of alleged police misconduct.
“Power of judge, jury, and executioner” wrapped up in one independent individual
In a statement announcing his veto of the bill, Gov. Youngkin said, “The best way to ensure that any bad actors within law enforcement are held accountable is to stand up for law enforcement, not tear them down or subject them to politically-motivated inquiries.”
Currently, any policing auditor would have to be hired by and report directly to the county manager. If the bill had been signed into law, however, the “politically-appointed auditor” chosen by the board would be paired with a civilian oversight panel and given authority to “make binding disciplinary determinations, including termination and involuntary restitution.”
In Youngkin’s actual veto, he laid out his two primary concerns with the bill in its current form, the first being that “unilateral and expansive authority” would be invested in a single individual that would render unto them “the power of judge, jury, and executioner.”
The governor also expressed his concern over how the legislation did not “delineate the qualifications of the politically-appointed independent policing auditor,” as well as the fact that there was no real input from law enforcement factored into decisions made by the civilian review board or the independent auditor.
Stopping a “misguided law” from getting “worse”
Local ABC affiliate KJLA reported that Gov. Youngkin, in an interview Tuesday, further took issue with a 2020 law signed by his predecessor, former Gov. Ralph Northam (D), that authorized local governments in the state to establish their own civilian oversight boards to mete out punishment to law enforcement officers accused of misconduct.
“It’s a misguided law to begin with. And this bill made it even worse,” the governor said. “To actually be judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to making decisions around law enforcement and to provide no outline to the qualifications to the person who should be doing this.”
“We have to support law enforcement and nobody, nobody wants to get rid of bad police than the good police,” he added. “This is a chance for us to not allow a misguided law to get worse and that’s why I vetoed it.”
Democrats tell a different story
Of course, The Washington Post reported that Virginia Democrats see things differently and sought to refute what Gov. Youngkin said by, on the one hand, arguing that this bill was no big deal and unworthy of being vetoed, while on the other hand also arguing that there was a dire need for a truly independent auditor not under the control of the county manager.
Indeed, Arlington County can still hire a policing auditor to work together with the county’s civilian oversight panel, but as noted, that auditor would be required to report directly to the county manager instead of being truly “independent” and ungoverned by anybody.
The Examiner noted that the vetoed bill will now be sent back to Virginia’s House of Delegates along with the governor’s state objections. Whether the state legislature rewrites the bill in consideration of those objections or attempts to override the veto is something that remains to be seen.