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Bill establishing use of force standard for rubber bullets, tear gas passes Virginia legislature

The bill now heads to Gov. Ralph Northam's desk for signature.

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia legislature passed a bill that would prevent local police from acquiring military equipment on Wednesday. The bill does not ban the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, but does establish the first comprehensive use of force standard for kinetic impact munitions.

Delegate Dan Helmer’s Best Equipment for Law Enforcement Act, HB 5049, passed the Virginia House and Senate late Wednesday. It bans the use of armed drones, tanks, MRAPs, and other combat equipment by civilian police forces in Virginia. It also mandates universal training standards to prevent the misuse of both tear gas and rubber bullets.

The legislation says tear gas can still be used if an unlawful assembly has been declared, a warning has been given and people have been given a reasonable amount of time to comply.

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“In the wake of historic protests across the country demanding we address systemic racism in our police and criminal justice reform, this bill creates real change. Peaceful protesters in Virginia should not face tanks or rubber bullets, and the Best Equipment for Law Enforcement Act is a pro-police, pro-reform bill that ensures that they won’t,” Helmer said in an email Thursday. “I appreciate the contributions of the public, advocates, and dedicated law enforcement professionals in the evolution and passage of this bill.”

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The bill also includes a waiver process for SWAT teams and the Virginia State Police in order to ensure police have access to protection during barricade or hostage situations.

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The full text of the bill can be found here.

The bill now heads to Gov. Ralph Northam's desk for signature.

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