NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Chatting about change: that was the focus of Thursday’s virtual town hall with the Norfolk NAACP and Congresswoman Elaine Luria.
The event touched on social injustice, diversity and police reform in Hampton Roads and beyond.
Luria said social injustice — especially when it involves law enforcement — is something that simply cannot happen. She shared her hope for how local cities can help lead the change.
The congresswoman said racial injustice may not be what it once was, but she adds there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“I feel like this is just continuously a scab that keeps getting picked off and has never healed,” Luria said.
She said work has already started in Washington.
Luria is one of the cosponsors of the Justice in Policing Act. The legislation ends police chokeholds, no-knock warrants and the practice of what’s called “qualified immunity.”
“It is a judicial precedent that makes it incredibly hard for someone to seek justice if their constitutional rights have been violated by the police,” she said.
The act also creates a national database of police misconduct and provides more funding for police training.
On a local level, Luria said cities should form citizen review boards.
“I think police are part of our community. They serve to protect our community but they have to be accountable to someone other than themselves,” she said.
But Luria added that it goes beyond that.
Luria said racial injustice extends across health care, education, housing and she said it’s incumbent on lawmakers to change that as well.
The congresswoman spent a day on the Eastern Shore this week and said there are racial disparities among law enforcement there. During Thursday’s town hall, Luria stated that there were no deputies of color on the road in Accomack County. Upon further review, Luria’s spokesperson found that there are, in fact, twelve people of color on the force in Accomack County, four of which are on the road.
Accomack County Sheriff Todd Wessells, who took office this January, said he is committed to diversifying the force.
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