Will Change Come to the ABC?

The governor’s mandated review is in.



A panel of experts assembled by Gov. Terry MacAuliffe wants all ABC agents to wear body cameras.

In March, Gov. McAuliffe issued an executive order that called for the reorganization of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Department. “Recent events involving special agents of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) in Charlottesville have underscored longstanding concerns about the agency's Bureau of Law Enforcement and exposed the need for more extensive training and oversight,” it said.

The arrest of University of Virginia student Elizabeth Daly, who spent the night in jail after buying sparkling water at a grocery store, and the forceful arrest of U.Va. student Martese Johnson, who was seen in a video that went viral bleeding and held to the ground by agents outside of a restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day, inspired the executive order.

A 20-member team of law enforcement officials, commonweath’s attorneys, the governor's policy advisor on law enforcement for ABC, representatives from ABC licensed establishments, alcohol education and prevention groups, the director of the Criminal Justice Services Department, the University of Virginia student council president and others, reviewed how the department operates and has now issued its report.

One of the most significant recommendations is one of mission: The new focus of the ABC needs to be “on ABC licensee regulatory matters rather than street-level enforcement,” the report says.

In addition, all agents should be retrained and accredited by a state or national law enforcement accrediting organization. A quarterly review of the department’s progress was also recommended.

Johnson, then 20, needed 10 stitches for the cut on his head that he received during his arrest. All charges were dropped. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch regarding a report of the incident issued Tuesday, Sept. 22, "The Virginia State Police report also suggests that the three ABC agents involved in the arrest, who were taken off duty after the arrest and reinstated in early August, did not violate their department’s general orders for reasonable use of force."

Daly, also age 20 at the time of her arrest, sued the state and seven ABC agents. She received a settlement out of court for $212,500 and a letter from the ABC Board explaining the circumstances of her arrest for presentation to any future employers, according to Attorney General's Mark Herring’s news release last year.

However, the attorney general also said: “The settlement between the Commonwealth and Ms. Daly is not an admission of any wrongdoing by the plaintiff or defendants.”

The governor, however, appears to have a different view.

UPDATE: This story was updated to reflect the findings of the Virginia State Police report issued Tuesday, Sept. 22, after the article published.

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