Target: Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe
Goal: Do not grant undertrained citizens police authority without oversight.
A Virginia law allows private citizens to become special conservators of the peace (SPOCs), granting them police authority and the right to carry a gun, issue tickets and make arrests. These “private police” receive next to no training and very little oversight, and the trend is catching on. More and more Virginians are petitioning for the right to take the law into their own hands and the courts have so far seen fit to allow some 750 citizens that right. Virginia must either implement a rigorous training program for all potential private police, or the state must end the practice entirely.
The number of private police patrolling Virginia streets has doubled in the past decade as state police services have been reduced and the demand for private security has grown. The rise in private police officers has seen a paralleled increase in the arrests of the officers who are eager to overstep their limited authority. While the majority of these citizen officers likely mean to lend a hand, their constant presence in U.S. neighborhoods puts themselves and other citizens at risk.
Virginia legislature recently passed a bill requiring more training for their SPOCs, increasing requisite training hours from 40 to 130–less training than security guards receive. There is no authority above the SPOCs for them to report to that would handle instances of misconduct and there is no system through which to record the number of arrests made or citations meted out. The only real oversights in place are the actual police and the courts, which maintain the power to revoke the officers’ commissions as they see fit.
The valiant and well-intentioned efforts of these citizens should not be undermined by the inadequacy of their training, but without the appropriate tools, such officers pose more danger than they mitigate. Sign this petition urging Virginia lawmakers to adequately train, report on and oversee their private police force or remove the statute that allows them to police altogether.
Dear Governor McAuliffe,
Private police are becoming more and more prevalent throughout Virginia, guarding the campuses, museums and neighborhoods of your cities, equipped with a citation book and a gun but almost no training. Virginia has a private police force of 750, none of whom has spent more than 130 hours learning how best to protect themselves and their fellow citizens.
Though the current training time required by the state to be given commissions is higher than the 40 hours required until recently, the training is still insufficient to become even a security guard. Without appropriate training, reporting and oversight, such officers become a danger to themselves and others.
I urge you to either adequately train and oversee private police officers or to make such authority unavailable to citizens altogether.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: beni195bb via Pixabay