Virginia Senate Passes Bill Making It A Misdemeanor To Assault A Police Officer If The Officer Is Not Injured

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The Virginia Senate passed a bill during a Virginia General Assembly special session Wednesday that would allow assaulting a police officer to be a misdemeanor if the person attacked is not injured.

The bill, which was passed by a vote of 21-15, also removes the mandatory minimum six-month sentence for assaulting an officer, according to NBC10 News. It would allow a judge to reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor if the suspect is disabled or the victim was unharmed, the Washington Post reported. (RELATED: Two-Thirds Of Americans Don’t Want To Defund Police: Poll)

During a heated debate in the special session, Republicans decried the bill as undermining law enforcement while Democrats touted it as a step forward in criminal justice reform.

Republican Sen. John A. Cosgrove Jr. asked, “What in the world are we doing here?”

“Have you watched television for the last couple of weeks? Have you seen what our police officers are going through?” Cosgrove asked, according to the Washington Post. “And here we are with a bill that’s going to actually make it easier for someone to actually assault a police officer.”

The bill “does not defund the police,” said the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Scott A. Surovell, the Washington Post reported. “It does not grant anyone the right to assault first responders.”

“You often see these charges coupled with situations where an arrest becomes unnecessarily aggressive, and that happens a lot more than it should,” Surovell added.

Democratic Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan said that “for too long in this commonwealth, there have been cases where the punishment is disproportionate to the crime. That is part of what people are marching in the street and demanding change for.”

Republicans also expressed concerns about the message the bill sends to law enforcement, especially during the time of ongoing protests and riots. (RELATED: ‘Morale Is In The Toilet’: Police Union Officials Wouldn’t Want Their Own Sons In Law Enforcement)

“That message to law enforcement is that we don’t care about you,” Republican Sen. Ryan T. McDougle said according to the Post. “And we’re sending a message to people that riot in our streets … that if you encounter a law enforcement officer you don’t need to be concerned because if you assault them it’s not as serious.”

The passage of the bill comes at a time of increased calls for police reform in the wake of weeks of protests and riots. Protests began after the May 25 death of George Floyd, and have been ongoing since then, erupting into violent riots in a number of places.

Some have called for defunding and abolishing the police, an idea that’s gained traction among left-wing activists amidst the demonstrations. Police departments across the country have faced budget cuts, including in Seattle, New York City and Minneapolis.