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Youngkin to ask Va. legislature for funds to beef up law enforcement

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NORFOLK, Va. — Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Monday said he will ask the legislature for $30 million to mount an aggressive push to recruit police from other states, part of a broader effort to beef up law enforcement at a time of surging violent crime.

Youngkin (R) announced his plans in downtown Norfolk, surrounded by police and local leaders from across the state — including some Black mayors he has been courting — as well as Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears (R) and Attorney General Jason S. Miyares (R).

Along with recruiting more officers, Youngkin seeks to boost their pay, provide them with better training and equipment, hire more prosecutors, and increase support for crime victims and witnesses.

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The General Assembly has already included funding for some of those measures in the budget. For the rest, including the out-of-state recruitment effort, Youngkin will have to ask for the money when the legislature reconvenes in January.

The governor wrapped existing and planned programs under one splashy name — Operation Bold Blue Line Initiative — and gave it a rollout akin to a campaign rally, with “Taking Care of Business” blaring as he made his entrance and exit.

“Over the last several years, too many of our fellow Virginians have fallen victim to violent crime,” he said. “Across Virginia, people wake up and turn on their television or grab their newspaper or grab their iPhone every day and they hear horrific stories. … It makes you want to cry.”

Fatal shootings across the state rose by 39 percent for the first seven months of this year compared to the same period in 2019, Youngkin said, noting that violent crime is “taking a greater toll in some communities versus others.”

A dozen or so of the communities most afflicted by violent crime will partner with the state to address the problem. They are: Norfolk, Hampton. Petersburg, Roanoke, Newport News, Portsmouth, Richmond, Chesapeake, Danville, Martinsville, Lynchburg and Emporia.

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Miyares issued a news release separate from the governor’s, saying that he had “declared a Ceasefire in the Commonwealth of Virginia.” It was a reference to Operation Ceasefire, a program pioneered in other states that targets repeat violent offenders.

The General Assembly included $5 million in the two-year budget passed earlier this year for “ceasefire” grants available to local gang-intervention programs.

Miyares also plans to tap five or six federal prosecutors to help prosecute violent crime and to hire two to three violence intervention coordinators. He also plans to seek money from the General Assembly to fund victim and witness assistance programs, which would provide money for protective services.

The surge in crime has been paired with shrinking police forces, Youngkin said, noting that in some cities, police department vacancy rates are approaching 40 percent.

“We must get more badges on the street — full stop,” he said.

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One way to do that is to hire police away from states.

“We will launch an effort here at home and across the nation to recruit 2,000 law enforcement officers to serve in Virginia,” he said, adding that he would seek $30 million for a “nationwide campaign to bring sworn law enforcement heroes from other states — especially states that do not support law enforcement.”

He also said he would do more to encourage Virginians to go into law enforcement, including through education programs that allow students to earn community college credits while in high school. And he said he would explore creating a “badge and degree program” that would allow recruits to get a degree “at little or no cost.”

“We need to inspire the next generation of Virginians into this most noble career,” he said.

The state’s G3 program, launched under Democrat Ralph Northam, provides community-college tuition assistance in certain high-demand fields, including law enforcement. Youngkin said he would “prioritize” law enforcement in the program but did not elaborate. Spokeswoman Macaulay Porter later clarified that Youngkin wants to increase enrollment in public safety under the G3 program.

He also said they would make an effort to get retired law enforcement officers to return, either in their previous roles or in new ones such as trainers or school resource officers.

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Increasing pay will be part of the equation. The current state budget gave police a raise, but Youngkin wants to build on that next year.

Ramin Fatehi, Norfolk’s commonwealth’s attorney, said he and several other prosecutors had been invited to the event, but they stayed away because they “received no meaningful information” about what it was about — despite “multiple” inquiries in advance.

He applauded Youngkin and Miyares for pledging to fund witness protection programs, noting that he and other prosecutors have long supported that.

But he raised concerns about Miyares’s plan to bring federal prosecutors into his office, saying the attorney general would probably “poach” them from understaffed commonwealth’s attorney’s offices. “Other police-centric proposals have promise, and I will leave it to police folks to address them,” Fatehi tweeted. “The big question is whether promises made become promises kept.”

Youngkin left Norfolk to attend a celebration for rapper and Portsmouth native Missy Elliott at that city’s Manor High School, where he read a proclamation in her honor before thousands of spectators on the school’s football field. As the Norfolk State University marching band started up, Youngkin left — shortly before a soaking rainstorm.

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