Virginia Governor McAuliffe announced on Friday that in accordance with the mission to keep Virginia’s families and community’s safe, he finds acceptable each of the recommendations set forth by the Virginia ABC Enforcement Expert Review Panel, assembled by the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security in response to Executive Order Number 40, Improving ABC Law Enforcement, issued on March 25, 2015.
The language of this order acknowledges that the responsibility to ensure that agencies that are charged with the enforcement of laws relating to public safety each have “the training, resources and oversight they need to do their jobs professionally and in a way that promotes and protects the public trust.” In addition to its being charged with its “control, service and revenue mission,” the Virginia ABC provides extensive alcohol education and prevention programs for individuals of all ages, throughout the Commonwealth. Among the materials provided at the ABC website is a record of the Minutes of one of the Panel’s several meetings in 2915.
The Expert Panel itself was asked to examine the issues relating to the structure, policies and training of the ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement in accordance with its mission, and to make recommendations as to its “tangible improvements.” Endorsing full implementation of the panel’s recommendations, the Governor directed Secretary Brian Moran to ensure that the regular reporting from ABC demonstrates continued improvement.”
What follows is an excerpt from Friday’s News Release:
“Final recommendations from the panel include a renewed focus on ABC licensee regulatory matters rather than street-level enforcement, as well as additional training and increased staffing of ABC special agents to monitor licensed establishments and keep pace with industry growth. Additional recommendations include ABC’s accreditation through a state or national law enforcement accrediting body, the establishment of stronger relationships among local and campus law enforcement and implementation of body-worn cameras during enforcement activities. The panel also suggested quarterly reports demonstrating progress toward the adopted recommendations.”
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has contributed more than $1.8 billion to the general fund over the last five years:
“The agency currently operates 355 state stores. Its Bureau of Law Enforcement oversees more than 16,000 ABC licensed establishments while the Hearings and Appeals Division considers more than 700 cases each year.”
ABC Chief Operating Officer Travis Hill notes in the News Release that several of those recommendations have already been accomplished, and other initiatives are well underway:
“Virginia ABC is dedicated to implementing the remaining recommendations expeditiously and providing quarterly reports that measure our progress and continued commitment to maintaining the highest level of professionalism and accountability.”
Officer Hill also expressed gratitude for the “exceptional contribution” of the 20-person expert review panel which was comprised of “representatives of law enforcement agencies, commonwealth’s attorneys, ABC-licensed establishments, alcohol education and prevention groups, state agency heads, a university student council president and other relevant stakeholder groups.”
It is especially challenging in college towns for law-enforcement to try to protect those unwilling or unable to protect themselves; and the agency is vigorously engaged in doing their best to prevent underage drinking, in light of the lasting harm that this can entail to an individual’s health and well-being throughout the rest of their lives. They are, in many cases, quite unaware of the extremity of the risk factors they are balancing against the benefits of short-term pleasantries, often blinded by a sense of invincibility.
The Office of the U.S. Surgeon General provides further information:
“Of adults who started drinking before age 15, around 40% say they have the signs of alcohol dependence. That rate is four times higher than for adults who didn’t drink until they were age 21. Rates of death and injury nearly triple between the early teen years and early adult life.”
The full report of the Expert Panel’s Final Recommendations Work Plan can be viewed online at the Virginia ABC’s website. A list of materials that were reviewed by the Expert Panes is also available.