Virginia governor orders retraining for officers after bloody arrest of black student
Virginia’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, has issued an executive order mandating that state alcoholic beverage control enforcement agents be retrained in the wake of the violent arrest of university student Martese Johnson – who is appearing in court on Thursday charged with resisting arrest and public drunkenness.
In swift action just a week after the event that occurred outside the University of Virginia (UVA) campus in Charlottesville, McAuliffe signed an executive order on Wednesday that is due to go into effect immediately and requires all such agents to be retrained by 1 September.
State alcoholic beverage control (ABC) officers arrested Johnson, 20, close to the UVA grounds after he was turned away from a bar that was only admitting over-21s. Johnson ended up on the ground with blood gushing down his face from a head wound, in a scene that was captured on mobile phone video and went viral, sparking mass protests on campus and prompting the governor to order a state police investigation.
In addition to the investigation, which is expected to continue until late May, McAuliffe issued an executive order that ABC enforcement agents must be retrained in the use of force and in matters of cultural diversity and how they interact with young people.
The order also gives universities and police departments in Virginia more oversight of the agents assigned to college towns.
The order has the goal of “improving collaboration, communication and delineation of expectations regarding enforcement activities performed by ABC special agents in these communities”, according to a statement from McAuliffe’s office.
It is common for the strip of popular bars next to campus known as “the corner”, and the nearby university fraternity houses to be patrolled by four sets of security personnel, from the state ABC department, the Charlottesville town police department, the UVA campus police team and a private security firm.
Virginia has 120 ABC enforcement agents operating across the state. A spokeswoman for the agency, Kathleen Shaw, said the ABC department will “certainly implement the governor’s executive order”.
She said that improvements in training were already under way and was working to develop additional steps “to meet the requirements” of the governor.
Johnson plans to plead not guilty in court on Thursday and later meet with state police investigators probing the circumstances of his arrest in the early hours of last Wednesday on a night when the corner was packed with revellers celebrating St Patrick’s Day.
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