Press Releases

Rice, Pappas Introduce VA Police Reform Legislation

Legislation would improve officer training, add body camera requirements for Department of Veterans Affairs police

f t # e
Washington, July 24, 2020 | comments

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Kathleen Rice (NY-04) and Chris Pappas (NH-01) today introduced the VA Police Improvement and Accountability Act to increase transparency and reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) police force. The bill would require the VA police to implement the use of body cameras, improve training and suicide prevention strategies, provide Congress with an analysis of staffing needs, and strengthen its adherence to civil rights laws. 

“Major reforms are needed at police departments across our nation, and the Department of Veterans Affairs police force is no exception,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice. “Last year, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing exposing the many shortcomings with the current VA police policies and procedures after one of my constituents was horribly mistreated at the Northport VA. The A Police Improvement and Accountability Act will address these issues by improving officer training, requiring the use of body cameras, and enacting other important measures that will increase accountability and transparency.” 

“More than 4,000 VA police across the country are entrusted with the mission of protecting our veterans, their families, and VA staff,” said Congressman Pappas. “As we look to implement reforms and improve outcomes for law enforcement across the country, the VA must be included in that conversation as well. This legislation takes important steps forward, including updating training and requiring body cameras to improve transparency and ensure proper oversight. I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress and with VA to ensure our veterans receive the treatment and care they have earned.”

“We have a responsibility to ensure VA police have accountability, working body cameras, and the tools and training they need to de-escalate crises,” said Chairman Mark Takano. “I’m proud to support Rep. Rice’s bill that provides much needed VA police reform and aligns with the Committee’s efforts to examine every angle, intersection, and factor that may lead to suicide. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic creating new stressors, we need to draw our focus even closer on veteran suicide prevention. This new bill introduced by Rep. Rice will help us do that by requiring key crisis intervention training to help mitigate harm when VA police encounter veterans in crisis.”

Following an incident where a veteran was mistreated and injured by VA police at the Northport VA Medical Center on Long Island, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing exposing several shortcomings regarding current VA police policies and procedures. The VA Police Improvement and Accountability Act seeks to reform these shortcomings, it would:

  • Improve transparency and accountability by requiring VA Police points of contact at individual facilities and providing public information regarding arrests, use of force, and other key metrics.
  • Require the VA to issue a report to Congress on its plans for improved police staffing and training and how it is tracking and analyzing police activity such as arrests, ticketing, and uses of force.
  • Require the use of body cameras for VA police officers, and the development of best practices to ensure that the use of body cameras is consistent with upholding civil rights and privacy of patients and employees.
  • Broaden work to address veteran suicide by ensuring that VA police have the training, resources, and appropriate level of staffing for crisis intervention training, crisis de-escalation techniques and other important skills. 

The full text of the legislation can be found here. 

###

f t # e