The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Public safety bills signed; memorial set for slain public safety officers
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
As Gov. Bob McDonnell ceremonially signed a group of law enforcement bills in Stafford on Wednesday, county Sheriff Charles Jett made his department the first to use one of the new laws.
He formally donated $20,000 in seized and forfeited assets toward creating a Virginia Public Safety Memorial to honor law enforcement officers killed on the job.
One of the bills signed by McDonnell—it and the others actually took effect July 1—allows law enforcement agencies to donate a portion of the forfeited assets they collect toward helping build the memorial.
“I can’t think of any better use of those asset forfeiture funds,” McDonnell said.
Jett said Virginia is one of only five states without a state-level memorial to law enforcement officers killed on the job, and that the creation of one will mean a lot to families of those officers, including three from Stafford.
“This memorial will give friends and family a place to forever remember their loved ones,” Jett said. “It’s extremely important.”
The memorial is in the planning stages, but leaders hope to see it built in Capitol Square in Richmond before the end of McDonnell’s term.
Jett said it will cost about $2.5 million; he doesn’t know how far toward that goal the memorial fund is right now.
He said he understands if other law enforcement agencies can’t afford to give up funds forfeited by criminals; in some jurisdictions, that’s what is keeping the sheriff’s office afloat, Jett said.
But Stafford’s $20,000 donation is just a portion of the $400,000 in seized assets the Sheriff’s Office has now, he said.
“I am prepared, as we get further and closer to donate more,” Jett said.
McDonnell’s bill-signing ceremony drew a number of law enforcement officers from various jurisdictions, as well as state delegates and senators who had sponsored bills.
Sen. Bryce Reeves, R–Spotsylvania, had a bill to clarify how police use GPS trackers on suspects.
“This legislation’s going to make it easier for all you guys who wear badges to track criminals,” said Reeves, a former police officer.
Other bills included one that speeds up the process for families of slain law enforcement officers to get access to Line of Duty benefits, and one that lets Virginia State Police arson investigators get search warrants.
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028