Virginia families want tighter restrictions on police use of deadly force

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — They’ve lost loved ones to a police officer’s bullet, and now they want to change the rules regarding police shootings. Several Virginia families want stricter guidelines on the use of deadly force.

They gathered yesterday in solidarity outside the Virginia Supreme Court, following the appeal hearing of a former Portsmouth cop convicted of manslaughter.

Departments in Virginia typically allow deadly force when the officer has a reasonable belief that there’s imminent danger of death or serious injury. A new approach requires the use of de-escalation measures before shots can be fired.

“No more. No more. We got to stand together,” said Earl Lewis, who organized the event at Richmond’s Bell Tower. His cousin William Chapman was unarmed when he was shot dead by Portsmouth police wants a state law to hold police accountable for deadly force.

“I am asking from the governor to the senators to pay attention and pass a bill dealing with police brutality and also excessive force,” Lewis also said he’s approaching Virginia delegates to encourage them to sponsor a bill.

Lewis has said he wants a law similar to a bill currently in the California legislature. Among other requirements, it would require police use all available options to de-escalate a situation before using lethal force.

According to a report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Las Vegas police now devote 100 hours to de-escalation in their training academy. Nationwide, recruits receive a median of only eight hours. By comparison, the national median for firearm training is 58 hours.

Several police departments, including Washington, D.C., now incorporate the words “sanctity of life” in their policy on deadly force.

Family members of deadly police shootings in Virginia say the time is now for reform. Princess Blanding’s brother was naked and unarmed when he was shot dead by Richmond Police.

“I stand here in solidarity and in support of the other families,” Blanding said. “We can’t back down.”

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