Gov.’s panel: ABC officers should retain arrest powers

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — An expert review panel tasked with examining issues involving the structure, policies and practices of ABC law enforcement released its final report to Governor Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday.

Following the controversial and highly publicized arrest by ABC agents back in March that left UVA student Martese Johnson bloodied, Gov. McAuliffe filed an executive order titled Improving ABC Law enforcement.

The executive order required a diverse panel of experts, assembled by Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, to review Virginia ABC and, if needed, to present the governor with recommendations for changes.

One of the issues considered by McAuliffe’s panel was whether ABC’s law enforcement powers should be shifted to state or local police. In its report issued Tuesday, the panel said “the public safety of Virginia is best served by Virginia ABC.”

The panel included state and locally elected officials, representatives of local and campus law enforcement agencies and sheriff’s offices, Commonwealth’s Attorneys, Virginia ABC leadership, Department of Criminal Justice Services staff and additional individuals relevant to alcohol distribution and hospitality.

A photo of Martese Johnson during Tuesday night's arrest by ABC agents.
This photo shows Martese Johnson being arrested by ABC Agents outside of a Charlottesville restaurant in March.

The group’s final report was submitted to Gov. McAuliffe six weeks ahead of the November 1 deadline he set when launching the executive order.

“I applaud the Enforcement Expert Review Panel members for expediting completion of the report in accordance with Executive Order Forty, and thank them for their cooperation, insight and diligence,” Gov. McAuliffe said in a release. “I look forward to reviewing the adopted recommendations and will determine what actions should be taken to ensure Virginia ABC, an agency charged with public safety, is doing all it can to keep Virginia’s families and communities safe.”

The review panel heard presentations from experts and stakeholders in law enforcement, the retail alcohol sales system, substance and alcohol treatment, and others with a vested interest in the industry. They then thoughtfully and candidly discussed the implications of the information they had received.

Recommendations of the panel include a renewed focus on ABC licensee regulatory matters as opposed to street level enforcement as well as additional training and an increase in special agent numbers to monitor licensee environments.

Click here to view complete meeting agendas, summaries and a complete list of all recommendations adopted by the panel.


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