Petition to Reform VA ABC Law Enforcement Powers

Submitted on Mar 20, 2015 by Sam Shirazi (Law ’15)

I have created a petition calling on our elected leaders to reform ABC by removing its law enforcement powers

https://www.change.org/p/terry-mcauliffe-virginia-state-senate-virginia-house-of-delegates-reform-va-abc-law-enforcement-powers?just_created=true

You can also directly write to the Governor on this issue

https://governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office/

Comments (16):

  1. Briordy Meyers Class of '99 on said:

    Can I ask why Sam? Do you know that improper ABC or general arrest technique is what led to the wounds during arrest, or are you just assuming that because of the video of the portion of the arrest you did see? Are you upset that they arrested a student who was drunk and underage? Do you know for a fact they exceeded normal force for detaining a drunk student resisting arrest? Do you know for a fact that if there was excessive force it was racially motivated? What is your suggestion for handling underage drunk people who resist arrest? I mean specifically what is the protocol you are advancing instead? Can you please outline what would be acceptable force for us? I certainly wasn’t there, so I don’t have the answers to some of these questions. Were you present to witness the arrest? Because assuming that there was excessive force just because of an injury and/or because the person detained was a minority is kind of, well, ironically judgmental. I’m certainly not saying that is what you are thinking or stating. Perhaps you do have these answers outlined already. But I do think that those are some of the answers you’ll need to have ready if you are going to cogently support your petition to the Virginia government.

    • Sam Shirazi on said:

      Thank you for you comments. You raise several valid points. I would just say that ABC had a similar incident in 2013 with Elizabeth Daly and was forced to pay over $200,000 in a settlement. Also there is the broader question of whether we want a regulatory agency enforcing laws against after college students, or should that sort of action be reserved for traditional law enforcement. I think local police such as UVa and Charlottesville police can enforce the underage drinking laws. The Virginia State Police can enforce larger violations of the alcohol laws.

      • Ben E, COMM '13 on said:

        The student arrest could have been completely justified and the petition would still be valid. The ABC is a prohibition-era legislative relic – having armed state officers routinely enforcing minor laws on Charlottesville City streets is bizarre and anomalous in 21st-century America.

        • Sam Shirazi on said:

          Thank you, Ben, I totally agree. The investigation has to happen, but we need to have a discussion of ABC’s role. As you suggested, I don’t think it makes sense for them to have law enforcement powers these days.

  2. J. Walker, college on said:

    We need to get the facts before we make any more statements. Was the student intoxicated and abusive to the police and perhaps others? Did he resist restraint? Or did the police go out of their way to attack him inappropriately? I do now know, but I suggest we get the facts before rendering judment. President Sullivan and others leaped to conclusions in the case of the Rolling Stone article, a piece that reeked of deception in a magazine known for its inaccuracies, and our University and its students suffered. This time, get all of the facts, double check them, take a deep breath, and then issue a mature and balanced statement. I did not enter comments on the other portal because there was no promise that my email address would not be released and I did not want to be attacked.

    • Sam Shirazi on said:

      Certainly we should allow the investigation to go forward. Regardless of the outcome, however, we should think about whether a regulator agency with a narrow mission should have law enforcement powers.

  3. David A Gambiill on said:

    Why stop with the ABC’s law enforcement powers? Why not extend to every municipality in the Commonwealth, yea, even unto every other agency in the Commonwealth itself? Why did you spend all that money going to law school, when every jailhouse convict-lawyer would come up with the same udea?

    • Sam Shirazi on said:

      No one is saying that there should not be law enforcement powers, but the question is who should have those powers. I believe that local police such as Charlottesville and UVa Police are better suited to enforce underage drinking laws. They have a better relationship with the community than a state agency that is only focused on one mission.

  4. Genevieve MacKenzie, Class ' 64 BSN on said:

    Hopefully, the President and administration will not committ the same errors as the fraternity abuse case!

    • Sam Shirazi on said:

      While I agree that we should allow the investigation to proceed, that does not mean we cannot have a discussion about the proper role of ABC. I believe that ABC should be a regulatory agency and not a law enforcement one.

  5. Joe Roth, SEAS 2010 on said:

    Thank you for putting this together.

    • Sam Shirazi on said:

      Your welcome, I believe we have a lot of support among students and beyond.

  6. Sam Shirazi on said:

    I just wanted to add a couple more words for the main reasons why there needs to be reform of ABC Law Enforcement Powers:

    1. Regulatory Agency vs. Law Enforcement: ABC is first and foremost a regulatory agency. They should be zealous about their mission of regulating alcohol in Virginia, but such zealously creates problems in the law enforcement context. This could have been part of the problem with the incident in 2013 with Elizabeth Daly buying water, and ABC agents drawing their guns on her. Imagine if the FDA or the IRS had its own law enforcement officers, we might be worried about them targeting individuals. There is a separation of powers argument that the agency in charge of regulating alcohol also should not be a law enforcement agency.

    2. Relationship with the Community. Given their limited mission, ABC officers by nature are not in the community in the same way as Charlottesville or UVa Police. They are not focused on the overall safety and well being of the community because they have a single mission. However, when incidents like this and the 2013 one happen, the community loses trust in all police. My advice is for ABC to stick to regulating the alcohol industry, and traditional law enforcement to enforce the laws. This arrangement will allow traditional law enforcement to focus on greater cooperation with the community as opposed to zealous enforcement of a few laws.

    3. Focus on Businesses. Even if you do not believe that ABC should be stripped of all their law enforcement powers, they should focus on businesses. Regulatory agencies are better suited to deal with established entities like businesses as opposed to individuals. Businesses know that there is a complex world of alcohol regulations, and there needs to be specialized knowledge to deal with such cases. Individuals often commit much less complex crimes, and so a highly specialized agency is not needed to enforce the laws against them.

  7. Russ Bell on said:

    There is no earthly reason I can think of why ABC officers need to be armed. They are obviously undertrained and unqualified to perform law enforcement actions. You are spot on with your analysis.

    • Sam Shirazi on said:

      Thank you for the kind words, I hope our elected officials will have discussions like the ones we are having.

  8. Gary Townsend on said:

    My, but Briordy Meyers asks a lot of loaded questions and makes a lot of assumptions about the circumstances of Martese Johnson’s arrest while inaccurately and disingenuously accusing Sam Shirazi of doing the same!