October 2020

New poll shows Virginia voters strongly support police reform

By Megan Lee, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- A recent poll finds Virginia voters strongly support police reform and nearly half of respondents say Joe Biden would handle the pandemic better than President Donald Trump.

The Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University released the poll Sept. 29 following a poll earlier that month which found Biden is leading Trump by 5 points among the state’s likely voters. 

The poll surveyed 796 registered Virginia voters by landline and cell phone. The Wason Center is 95% confident that the projected populations of those surveyed in this poll are accurate within a 3.9% margin of error, said Wason Center Research Lab Director Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo.

Of those surveyed, 29% identify as Republican, 34% as Democrat and 32% as Independent. The remaining 6% had no preference, identified with another party or did not respond.

Bromley-Trujillo said the center chose to focus on two key issues among voters: police reform and the pandemic. The poll asked about police reform opinions in response to the civil unrest seen across the country since May. Protests began around the nation after the death of George Floyd and in response to a series of fatal encounters between police and Black individuals. Protests swelled again recently after a grand jury did not indict any officers with the death of Kentucky woman Breonna Taylor. The protests have demanded more accountability within police operations.

More than 90% of respondents supported de-escalation training for police, requiring police body cameras, and mandating police officers intervene when a colleague uses unlawful force. 

A majority of Republicans say police are either excellent or good regarding the equal treatment of racial and ethnic groups, while a low percentage of Democrats agree (62%-9%). Females rated police lower on this question than males.

When asked if civilian oversight boards should be created to investigate police misconduct, 70% of voters supported the proposal.

Just over 75% of voters supported both the requirement of police departments to publicly report incidents involving the use of force and the establishment of a public database to track police officers found responsible for misconduct.

“I was somewhat surprised by the level of agreement on some of the police reform measures,” Bromley-Trujillo said. “Though the public is very polarized, there are still places where they show agreement.”

Voters are also divided when it comes to allowing civilians to sue police officers for excessive force or misconduct (52% say it should be allowed and 44% say it should not be). Voters narrowly oppose banning police use of military-grade weapons (50%-47%).

Recent state legislation reflects this voter interest in police reform and criminal justice. Bills establishing a statewide system that pairs teams of mental health professionals and peer recovery specialists with police officers and the automatic expungement of certain convictions are examples of legislation that have advanced in the Virginia General Assembly in the last two months.

Almost half of surveyed voters believe Biden would handle COVID-19 issues better than Trump, while 36% thought the opposite. The remaining 11% said neither candidate would be good. 

The poll found that a majority of respondents said the U.S. is loosening COVID-19 restrictions too quickly, and 41% said the country is taking too long. Democrats and Republicans are strongly divided over the country’s rate of reducing COVID-19 restrictions; 86% of Democrats said restrictions are being reduced too fast, while nearly 75% of Republicans said it is taking too long.

The poll was sent out before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, which is why opinions on Supreme Court confirmations were not surveyed, said Bromley-Trujillo. 

In order to hone in on police reform as much as possible, Bromley-Trujillo said the center did not explore the economy, healthcare, climate change and immigration. However, she noted voters mention these topics as reasons to choose a candidate. 

“The wildfires in the West have also highlighted the issue of climate change, and I suspect that immigration and other issues will come back to the forefront as related events occur and as political elites, the public and interest groups raise them,” Bromley-Trujillo said. 

William Thomas “Tommy” Jarratt, Sr.

May 21, 1946-October 3, 2020

Visitation Services

Wednesday, October 7, 2020 from 11:00AM until 1:00PM

Echols Funeral Home
806 Brunswick Avenue
Emporia, Virginia

Wednesday, October 7, 2020 at 2:00PM

Drewryville Memorial Cemetery

William Thomas “Tommy” Jarratt, Sr., 74, passed away Saturday, October 3, 2020 at Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center.

Tommy was born May 21, 1946 in Emporia, Virginia. He worked for Georgia Pacific Corporation in Emporia, Virginia where he retired after thirty years of service. Tommy spent his spare time maintaining the grounds for the EGRA. Throughout his life and following retirement, he enjoyed working on vehicles in his shop.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Anna Smith Jarratt; his parents, Waverly Richard Jarratt, Sr. and Fannie Wells Jarratt, and brothers Waverly Richard Jarratt, Jr., Edward Carol Jarratt, and Benjamin Jarratt.

Tommy is survived by his loving children; William T. Jarratt, Jr. “Timmy” (Lori), Stuart Craig Jarratt, and Trista Jarratt Clements (Robert); sister, Ginger Shackelford (James) of Urbanna, VA; grandchildren, Dustan T. Jarratt (Emily) of Emporia, Va, Lynsey Jarratt Overstreet of Farmville, VA, Brooklyn N. Jarratt of Urbanna, VA, Kayla L. Jarratt, Austin C. Jarratt, Sumer B. Clements, Carleigh B. Jarratt, Allie M. Jarratt, and Cora, Alyce and Anna Clements, all of Emporia, VA; great-grandchildren, Hudson and Ryland Jarratt of Emporia, Lailah and Rilee Baylor of Urbanna, VA, Aubrie and Reed Overstreet of Farmville, VA, Dakota and Daxton Ferguson of Emporia, VA and a number of nieces and nephews.

The family will receive friends at Echols Funeral Home on Wednesday, October 7, 2020 from 11:00AM until 1:00PM. A graveside service will be held Wednesday, October 7, 2020 at 2:00PM at Drewryville Memorial Cemetery.

A heartfelt thank you to the staff, especially the nurses, at Greensville Health and Rehabilitation that have “kept up” with Tommy over the course of his stay at their facility.

Online condolences may be made at www.echolsfuneralhome.com

Alpha Pi Donates to VCU Health CMH

Yvette Morris, president of the Alpha Pi chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma Sorority, presents Ashley Wallace, RN (center) and Jordan Young, RN, both nurses in the Birthing Center, with books that the nurses are able to give out to each newborn at VCU Health CMH.

Most teachers will tell you that reading is a great way to get ahead in school. A group of teachers from eastern Mecklenburg County is hoping to instill the love of reading from a very early age. 

The Alpha Pi Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma made another donation of books to VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital’s Garland Birthing Center recently. 

The Delta Kappa Gamma Society promotes professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education. 

The president of the local chapter, Yvette Morris, said, “We want to build a passion for reading. We are thrilled to be able to help bring books to children.” 

With more than 70 books, the group has helped make sure all new parents at the Garland Birthing Center at VCU Health CMH will be able to take home a book for their newborn. 

According to Sarah Carlton, MSN, RNC-OB, LCCE, Clinical Coordinator of the Garland Birthing Center, “The nurses on labor and delivery love being able to gift a book to our new babies. Some nurses even write personalized birthday notes to the newborns. The parents are always so appreciative of the support and love our community shows! Big brothers and sisters also get to enjoy picking a new book off the shelf, as well. The book donations and the amazing support from Alpha Pi make a lifelong impression on our new parents, babies and siblings!” 

For Ken Kurz, director of the CMH Foundation, the ladies of the Alpha Pi Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma prove what he has come to learn about Southside Virginia. 

“The way people like these fine ladies care, it just builds my belief in what a great place we live,” he said. 

VIRGINIA STATE POLICE LAUNCHES NEW FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST WEBSITE

New System Aids Public/Attorneys/Media with Submission & Tracking of FOIA Requests

RICHMOND – Effective Oct. 1, 2020, the Virginia State Police launched a new website strictly designed to aid the public with submitting and tracking Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests related to the Department. Located at www.vsp.nextrequest.com, the public may now use the web-based public records portal to submit their FOIA requests. The records management system also is available to attorneys to upload subpoena duces tecums* and discovery requests. Media are encouraged to use the system to submit FOIA requests to the Virginia State Police, as well.

“Within the first nine months of 2020, our Office of Legal Affairs has received, processed and responded to more than 3,180 FOIA requests for Virginia State Police records,” said Col. Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Public record, subpoena and discovery requests have been steadily increasing in recent years. This new online records management system will not only be of great benefit to requesters, but also streamlines the FOIA process within our statewide agency and helps the Department to more efficiently process and respond to requests.”

The new website, hosted by NextRequest©, is a secure platform that enables a requester to complete a simple form to submit a FOIA request to the Virginia State Police. The new website features a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page to help requesters with understanding their FOIA rights, how to submit a request, costs, contacts, list of FOIA exemptions as granted by the Code of Virginia, and a link to the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council. The secure platform assists the state police Office of Legal Affairs with redaction, reporting and payment of FOIA requests.

The new online portal is not for use for those seeking to request a criminal history background check. Such requests are still to be submitted via the Virginia State Police website at www.vsp.virginia.gov/CJIS_Criminal_Record_Check.shtm.

NextRequest© supports the records request software, which is used by city, county and state governments, law enforcement agencies and universities across the nation.

Rep. McEachin Calls for Parent and Teacher Feedback on Virtual Learning

RICHMOND, V.A. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) today announced an online form which parents and teachers can use to submit feedback and share their virtual learning experiences with him. Most school systems in Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District are wrapping up their first month of virtual learning next week and while some will continue virtually, others may return to in-person learning.

“I know there have been challenges adapting to online learning this school year, and I want to hear from parents and teachers about what is going well and what could be improved,” said Congressman McEachin. “If there is an opportunity for me to help at the federal level, I want to make sure I know about it, whether that is through additional relief funding for school systems, legislation to expand access to child care, or grants for technology and broadband expansion. We must keep our students and educators safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that we are providing the best learning environment possible during this challenging time.”

Parents and teachers can submit their feedback online at https://bit.ly/VA04OnlineEd

School districts within Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District include: Charles City County, Chesapeake, Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie, Emporia, Greensville, Henrico, Hopewell, Petersburg, Prince George, Richmond, Southampton, Suffolk, Surry and Sussex.

Pauline B. Moss

Junr 5, 1929-October 1,2020

Services

2 p.m. Saturday, October 3, 2020

Greensville Memorial Cemetery
1250 Skippers Road
Emporia, Virginia

Pauline B. Moss, 91, of Emporia, passed away Thursday, October 1, 2020. She was the widow of Willard Moss and also was preceded in death by a son, E. Kirby Moss and a sister, Serena Brockwell.

Mrs. Moss is survived by two sons, Danny Moss, Sr. and Darrell Moss, grandchildren, Candice Bowe, Jessica Grant, Brian Blanton, Danny Lee Moss, Jr., Melissa Ann Moss, Lori Story and Vanna Story; 16 great-grandchildren and a brother, Robert Bailey.

The funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct 3 at Greensville Memorial Cemetery.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

Library Increases Hours

Beginning Monday, October 5th, Meherrin Regional Library System increases hours open to the public. New hours are Mondays 10:00 am - 6:00 pm and Tuesdays – Fridays 9:30 am - 5:00 pm. Contact free and after hour locker service will remain available and bookdrops are open. Patrons must wear face coverings when visiting. Other restrictions may apply. For questions, please contact the Brunswick County Library, Lawrenceville at 434-848-2418, ext. 301, Richardson Memorial Library, Emporia at 434-634-2539 or visit www.meherrinlib.org.

 

VSU Small Farm Outreach Program Receives $600,000 to Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recently announced more than $53 million in grant funding across three unique agricultural programs to help U.S. farmers, ranchers and military veterans.
 
USDA-NIFA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) awarded more than $16.7 million in 48 projects to deliver support new farmers and ranchers need. Virginia State University’s Small Farm Outreach Program (VSU/SFOP) was included in the projects, receiving nearly $600,000 to help socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers (SDVFR) in the Commonwealth.
 
This is the second time SFOP has been awarded the grant from USDA-NIFA to help small farmers. It received the grant in 2016 and reapplied in 2019 when funding expired. VSU is one of only four of the nation’s 19 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) established as 1890 land-grant universities to receive the funding, and one of only two HBCUs awarded the maximum funding amount.
 
“We’re grateful for the renewed commitment from USDA-NIFA to support small disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and veterans,” said SFOP director William Crutchfield.  “We will use these funds to continue our training and outreach efforts to help new and beginning famers build successful and sustainable businesses.”
This grant is especially critical in helping to encourage new farmers and ranchers and addressing the decline in Virginia farmers as older farmers leave or retire from agriculture, Crutchfield added.
 
SFOP, which is part of the Virginia Cooperative Extension at VSU, will use a holistic approach to equip socially disadvantaged and veteran beginning farmers and ranchers (SDVBFR) in Virginia with the tools and skills needed for them to make informed decisions in owning and operating successful farm businesses. The approach will include outreach, training and technical assistance to help them with planning, production and marketing.
 
The project will provide education about USDA opportunities, programs and services; farm estate planning and financial planning and management; production techniques to produce high value, profitable crops and livestock; marketing strategies to attract new and existing markets to sell products; and collaborative partnerships to increase capacity and ensure sustainability of farm operations. The project will target 70 Virginia counties, where disadvantaged farmers and ranchers have been traditionally underserved because of barriers, such as high start-up costs; limited access to credit; lack of knowledge on land acquisition and transition; lack of skills in financial planning; lack of production skills; and limited access to existing and viable markets. In a continued partnership with Virginia Tech's Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition (VBFRC), VSU will address these barriers by using the "Whole Farm Planning" curriculum developed by VBFRC as a tool to train farmers.
 
Additionally, USDA-NIFA awarded $9.6 million to help support projects through its Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Program (AgVets) and $28.7 million to help address farmer stress through its Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN). 
 

 
Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Marcus alert bill passes House and Senate, moves to Northam’s desk

By Andrew Ringle, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly have approved a proposal to establish a statewide system that pairs teams of mental health professionals and peer recovery specialists with police officers responding to mental health crises.

The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 24-15 on Thursday. The House gave the legislation the green light in September with a vote of 57-39. The proposal now needs a signature from Gov. Ralph Northam to become law.

House Bill 5043 is sponsored by Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond. Dubbed the mental health awareness response and community understanding services, or Marcus alert system, the bill honors the life of Marcus-David Peters, who was shot and killed in 2018 during an encounter with Richmond police. Peters, a 24-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University alumnus and high school biology teacher, was naked and unarmed during the shooting. After running into traffic on the interstate, Peters charged at an officer who deployed a Taser and then fired his gun. Peters’ family said he was experiencing a mental health crisis.

Bourne’s bill requires law enforcement to consider mitigating “impact to care” by having officers not wearing their uniforms and using unmarked vehicles, when possible. 

Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, did not directly comment on Bourne’s bill, but she said mental health calls are “volatile and dangerous” and that co-response teams require extensive training for officers and mental health workers.

“Additionally, there needs to be sufficient funding to make both trained officers and mental health workers who serve on co-response teams available at any time of day,” Schrad said  in a message.

Schrad said the organization supports efforts to create co-responder teams for mental health calls. She said the commonwealth must address the “overwhelming need” to improve mental health and preventative services locally.

“However, we cannot support efforts that would disarm law enforcement officers and take them out of uniform on mental health calls,” Schrad said. 

Bourne’s bill would require Virginia Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, in collaboration with Criminal Justice Services, to create two plans by July 1, 2021. One creates a written plan for the development of a Marcus alert system, and another sets guidelines for law enforcement. By the same date, localities must also create a database identifying individuals with mental or behavioral health illness, developmental or intellectual disability or brain injury. Such individuals or a legal guardian may voluntarily provide the individual’s address and relevant health information to the database, which would be accessible to 911 and the Marcus alert system.

The bill would require Virginia Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and Criminal Justice Services to establish guidelines and training programs for crisis teams, call center employees, clinical staff and Marcus alert system users by Dec. 1, 2021.

Every locality must have a Marcus alert system with care teams by July 1, 2022, according to the bill. 

Mental Health America of Virginia Executive Director Bruce Cruser, who called the bill “a significant step forward” during a House committee meeting on Aug. 25, said the proposal may need further review in order to promote coordinated responses across localities. 

“We’re just anxious to see how we can work out language that is coordinated,” Cruser said.

Opinions vary among mental health personnel regarding potential safety risks posed by crisis situations, Cruser said. 

“If a mental health professional is being put in harm’s way, I mean obviously that’s a concern,” he said. “But I think how the system is structured is really the key.”

Cruser said there’s uncertainty in the mental health field regarding how the system would work in different areas across Virginia and whether personnel would be equipped to respond to crises.

“Some are well trained in de-escalation, and some are not,” Cruser said. “That’s really one of the challenges here, is to work with local community service boards and localities to determine the best way to intervene that brings about the desired result, which is less injury to anyone and better outcomes.”

Cruser said Mental Health America of Virginia supports the goals of Bourne’s legislation, but that a larger effort is needed to prevent crisis situations from happening in the first place.

“If there’s a call for service and it’s a mental health call, well then the response should be mental health-focused,” Cruser said. “The law enforcement response should be reserved for what law enforcement are trained to deal with best. The challenge is how you determine the nature of the call in the first place.”

Careers 4 Women in Technology Summit

Considering a career in technology?  On Tuesday, October 20th from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm, Southside Virginia Community College will be hosting a virtual summit for women interested in pursuing a career in today’s digital world. 

Presenters include:

  • Kat Roney – Network Acquisition Specialist, Microsoft
  • Pepsi Wirth – Chief of Staff, Xbox Compliance
  • Lesley Kipling – Network Cross Functional Team, US Army Future Command
  • Kia Preston – Information Technology Specialist, Southside Virginia Community College
  • Latarsha Walton – Desktop Support Technician, Department of State Foreign Affairs Security Training Center
  • Kristin Puleo – Microsoft Datacenter Academy Scholar, Intern and Datacenter Technician, Microsoft

Learn about the training and skills necessary for in-demand careers!  Panelists will discuss current positions and how they embarked on their career pathways and obstacles they overcame along the way. 

Registration is required by October 15th.  To register or for more information go to Southside.edu/article/careers-4-women-technology or call 434-955-2252.

Bill stalls to hold localities responsible for protest damage

By Ada Romano, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- A General Assembly bill is likely dead for the session that would have held localities accountable for damages caused by protesters if an adequate police response was not provided.

Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, said he proposed House Bill 5026 to assure localities provide proper police protection during protests in an effort to minimize damages to personal property and businesses. The bill was referred to the House Courts of Justice committee in August but has not been addressed, and probably won’t be according to its sponsor. 

 Protests erupted around the state and nation since May, with demonstrators calling for social justice and police reform after George Floyd died in police custody. The protests swelled again last week after a grand jury indicted on wanton endangerment charges one out of three officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor, a Kentucky woman who died after police fired shots in her apartment while serving a no-knock warrant. 

Cole submitted the bill in response to what he said was Virginia local government officials ordering police to stand down and not break up unlawful protests that included rioting and looting. 

“It should be obvious now, that you cannot count on Democrats to keep you safe,” Cole said. “When violent protests hit, they order the police to back off and let rioters run wild.”

Buildings and vehicles were burned in Richmond in the initial days of protests following Floyd’s death, including a public transit bus. There was widespread property damage throughout the city which included graffitti, broken windows and stolen property. 

The Richmond Police Department instituted an 8 p.m. curfew a few days later and the Virginia State Police department, along with other local counties, began providing additional support. 

The Richmond Fire Department recently estimated that the city saw nearly $4 million in fire damage in the first 18 days of protests, according to a report by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Police spent more than $1.6 million on police overtime pay during the first month of protests in Richmond, according to a report by Richmond BizSense.

Protests have included calls from demonstrators to defund the police. Cole said defunding police would make communities less safe, and early police intervention could prevent situations from turning violent. 

“People pay taxes for police protection, so if local elected officials withhold that protection, they should be held liable for the results of their actions,” Cole said. 

Steve Neal, an author and retired Chesterfield County police captain, said the bill contradicts a 2005 Supreme Court ruling stating police have “no duty” to protect civilians from harm from another person.

Neal said the language in the bill is too vague to enforce and said he felt an obligation to protect citizens since becoming a law enforcement officer.

“Every police officer I’ve ever known, including myself, would risk their lives trying to protect other people. That’s what we do on a daily basis,” Neal said. “The police are actually doing that even though the law says we don’t exactly have that duty.” 

The staff of the Commission on Local Government analyzed the bill’s fiscal impact and collected responses from several localities. The Commission wrote that a majority of localities responded the bill would likely raise insurance premiums and legal fees because it can increase litigation resulting from the bill. 

A Virginia Beach representative questioned what evidence would have to be submitted or found to prove a locality “intentionally” or “negligently” provided an adequate police response.

A Wise County representative stated: “What is adequate in my mind may not be adequate in the minds of others.”

 A representative from the town of Marion stated: “This could open Pandora's Box for localities already suffering from reduced police staffing and increased incidents of civil unrest.”

Jessica Moore has been at the forefront of Richmond protests. She said she became more involved in the movement after learning about the lack of protection against COVID-19 in the Richmond City Justice Center, where her friend is incarcerated. 

“It’s become a lot more passionate for me just because no one else is listening. Our mayor is not listening, our governor is not listening,” Moore said. “We’re going to take matters into our own hands.”

 Moore, along with thousands who protested in Richmond over the past five months, advocates defunding the Richmond Police Department. She said it’s essential to reallocate tax dollars to schools and other community services. 

“If they’re going to continue to fund the police, then the funds need to be spread out into programs to teach them to work with people with mental illnesses and other training to help them be more sensitive to certain situations,” Moore said.

Moore believes less response is needed, not more, as Cole’s bill proposes. Moore said the police are provided tear gas and other weapons, which are unnecessary. 

Legislators advanced several bills regarding criminal justice reform during the General Assembly special session, which kicked off in August to tackle criminal justice reform, the budget and other issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cole said that he has not decided if he will introduce the same bill in the next session.

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