According to a Press Release from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, provided on Monday, the three Agent-officers involved in the detention and ultimate arrest of rising 4th-year UVa student Martese Johnson have now returned to active duty — having been assigned to ‘desk duty’ pending the outcome of the independent investigation ordered by Gov. Terry McAuliffe on the same day of Johnson’s arrest, following a telephone conversation with UVa President Teresa Sullivan.
The independent investigation was undertaken by the Virginia State Police, and upon completion was filed with Secretary Brian Moran, of the office of Public Safety and Homeland Security. The ABC then closely reviewed the details of the report and determined that there had been no violation of agency policy, and that consequently the Agents were cleared for active duty.
Since the report constitutes a personnel matter, the authorities cite current Virginia law which they say prohibits its disclosure; and no representative of the Virginia ABC is free to offer comment relating to it. It is this report — and perhaps the additional criminal investigative report on which the Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney, Dave Chapman, based his determination not to press charges on the two misdemeanor offenses that Mr. Johnson was facing — that Johnson now believes must be brought to light in order to better understand exactly what happened that night, so as to be better prepared in order to avoid incidents like this in the future.
The Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office — with Dave Chapman and Nina Alice Antony presiding — arranged for an open forum in which a lengthy presentation of evidence in the Johnson case took place on Wednesday, June 17, in the City Council Chambers six days after the decision was made to set aside the charges against Mr. Johnson and to file no charges against the ABC Agent-officers.
It is the position of the Virginia State Police that because their report entails a personnel matter, there is an exemption from what might otherwise be included in the scope of a mandatory disclosure law.
In an interview with NBC29, Mr. Johnson noted that although he was not surprised by the outcome of the report and the subsequent review which led to the Agent-officers’ return to duty without any form of disciplinary action, he believes that the public would best be served by additional efforts to enhance a full understanding of what took place that night:
“In order for law enforcement to have positive relationships as they can with the community, they have to be transparent and they have to prove that they are not hiding anything.
The fact of the matter is, in spite of the policies that they had not broken, there needs to be proactive steps to make positive change so something that happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else in the future.”
Following Governor McAuliffe’s Executive Order 40, Improving ABC Law Enforcement, issued shortly after the incident took place, there were a number of changes in the Agency itself, including an engagement of Memoranda of Understanding agreements among administrators of the law enforcement agencies that actively serve communities where colleges or universities are located. Additional mandated training has now been completed, and the statement released on Monday includes these details on the subject:
“The Virginia ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement worked with the Department of Criminal Justice, splitting training into two sessions lasting two weeks each that were completed in June and July. Training included hands-on and classroom instruction in areas of use of force, cultural diversity, effective interaction with youth and community policing.”
What is often overlooked in a discussion of the enforcement of the specific laws relating to underage drinking is the duty of communities to protect the most vulnerable amongst us, and in the case of underage drinking — because the bodies of young adults from their teens through age 21 — the damage to the organs which metabolize alcohol, especially in individuals with a history of ‘binge drinking’ or otherwise drinking to excess — can entail damage that will remain with them throughout their lives, often leading to a diagnosis of alcohol dependence, rather than alcohol abuse. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, underage drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 annual deaths among underage youth.
The Virginia ABC is also an active participant in the Enforcement Expert Review Panel. scheduled to meet next on 26 August. The Governor has made available online, to the public, several of the documents on topics the Panel will have addressed at a number of meetings during the Spring and Summer, concluding with a full Report with their recommendations, if any, to be presented to the Governor no later than November 1, 2015.
The documents listed below relate to the March 18 event in Charlottesville and include materials presented and/or provided by Virginia ABC to Enforcement Expert Review Panel members and meeting attendees.
Virginia ABC Special Agents Return to Active Duty, August 10, 2015 (PDF)
Virginia State Police Administrative Review Completion Statement, July 29, 2015 (PDF)
Answers to Questions from the June 1 Enforcement Expert Review Panel, July 8, 2015 (PDF)
Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Presentation Statement, June 17, 2015 (PDF)
Martese Johnson Case Decision Statement June 11, 2015 (PDF)
Enforcement Expert Review Panel Presentation June 1, 2015 (PDF)
Virginia ABC Charges, Fiscal Years 2011–2014 (PDF)
Virginia ABC Title 18 Charges, Fiscal Years 2011–2014 (PDF)
Enforcement Expert Review Panel Presentation, May 4, 2015 (PDF)
Virginia State Police Criminal Investigation Statement, April 29, 2015 (PDF)
Overview of Virginia ABC, March 25, 2015 (PDF)