March 5, 2012
Colonel Steve Pike
Chief, Capitol Police
1100 Bank Street, 2nd Floor
Richmond, VA 23219
Dear Colonel Pike:
The events of last Saturday, where over thirty protesters were arrested on the Capitol steps, in many ways seem to be the culmination of a General Assembly session that has been unlike any one I have seen during my time in the House. I know this has placed your officers under additional stress, and I appreciate your efforts on behalf of the Commonwealth to maintain the safety and security of its citizens. At the same time, the images of armed State Police in full riot gear removing Virginia citizens from the Capitol steps is troubling to many of our constituents, and potentially places Virginia unfavorably in the national spotlight.
Saturday’s events have raised numerous questions. I would like to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss the nature of the Capitol Police protocol, and how your officers interact with the State Police and any other specialized tactical squads. I would like to know more about the nature of the force that is to be utilized in response to protesters.
At the present time, I am also interested in discussing the following issues:
- The origins of the specific protocol about the issuance of permits and demarcation lines beyond which demonstrators are prevented from assembling.
- The degree to which the Attorney General of the Commonwealth has rendered an opinion on the constitutionality of this protocol.
- The person or persons who decides and/or authorizes the mobilization of various tactical squads, additional local police, and swat teams, both related and unrelated to the Capitol Police, and who makes the decision, as well as how these decisions are made, about the weapons that are deployed at the scene of a protest.
- The incidents when the tactical squads, swat teams, and/or other non-Capitol Police teams have been mobilized on Capitol grounds over the last ten years in response to protests and the purpose for those deployments.
- The extent to which the protocol will be reviewed in the aftermath of Saturday’s events.
- The extent to which the Capitol Police, the Governor’s office, the House and/or Senate staff, or the Attorney General have considered how precisely to determine when an individual or a group becomes part of an assembly that is subject to the protocol regarding demonstrations on Capitol grounds.
The Capitol Police are on the front line of protecting the rights and liberties of the citizens of the Commonwealth. This is a difficult job and often subjects your officers to abuse, criticism, and second guessing. Understanding the protocols and the conditions under which force is to be utilized during a protest is important in order to ensure our citizens’ rights of assembly under the First Amendment and to present their grievances to their government.
I look forward to meeting with you to discuss these issues in further detail.
David J. Toscano
Cc: Governor Robert F. McDonnell
The Honorable Richard L. Saslaw
The Honorable Thomas K. Norment, Jr.
The Honorable M. Kirkland Cox
Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Superintendent