SD12 - Special Conservators of the Peace and Special Police

Executive Summary:
During the 2002 Session of the Virginia General Assembly, Senator Thomas K. Norment, Jr. introduced Senate Joint Resolution 69 (SJR 69). directing the Virginia State Crime Commission to study Special Conservators of the Peace and Special Police. (*1) Specifically, the study resolution identified the following areas for analysis: (i) the chronicity and rationale for current appointments of conservators and special police: (ii) training needs of appointees to ensure understanding of constitutional and criminal law; (iii) proper search ad seizure techniques; (iv) proper manner of executing arrests: and (v) personal safety concerns and issues when exercising conservator powers. As a result of the study efforts the following findings and recommendations were made regarding Special Conservators of the Peace and Special Police in the Commonwealth:

Staff Findings

The SJR 69 Study produced the following findings:

• the 1996 Crime Commission study goals of consistency, uniformity, and limitations to persons with Conservator of the Peace powers have not been achieved with the current statutes or system;
• Code provisions concerning bond requirements, time limitations on appointments and qualifications related to employment are not uniformly required by the circuit courts in Virginia;
• there were no systemic differences in the types of entities or persons applying for and granted powers under § 15.2-137 versus § 19.1-13 as was intended;
• there is still the potential for thousands of persons to have law enforcement powers without any training, liability coverage or qualifications; and,
• the current system does not ensure that local law enforcement agencies are even aware of persons authorized with Conservator powers in their jurisdictions.

Based on these findings, the Crime Commission made the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1:
Effective January 1, 2004, require the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to regulate, certify, and register Conservators of the Peace as they do private security officers.

DCJS regulations should, at a minimum, include:
-fingerprint based background checks;
-required bond or liability insurance; and,
-training standards.

Recommendation 2:
Persons employed as law enforcement officers or private police officers as defined in § 9.1-101 who have met the standards in § 15.2-1705 shall be exempt from the Conservator registration requirements.

Recommendation 3:
Repeal § 15.1-1737 setting forth the procedures for Special Police.

Recommendation 4:
Amend the Code to require applicants seeking Conservator of the Peace appointments provide DCJS registration materials to the Circuit Court prior to the granting of powers.

Recommendation 5:
Repeal all appointments under § 19.2-13 and § 15.2-1737 effective January 1, 2004 at the time the new requirements become effective.

Recommendation 6:
Require DCJS to develop a uniform identification card for all persons sworn by the Circuit Court having met certification requirements.

Recommendation 7:
Amend § 9.1-143 to add an appointed Conservator of the Peace to the Private Security Services Advisory Board.

Recommendation 8:
Request the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court to develop a model court order for Conservator of the Peace appointments that includes the mandated criteria in § 19.1-13.

Recommendation 9:
Amend § 19.2-13 to require that the State Police include additional information on the applying authority. the effective dates of the appointment and the geographic limitations of Conservator orders in VCIN.

Recommendation 10:
Amend § 19.2-13 to require the Clerk of the Circuit Court to transmit a copy of the Conservator order to the local law enforcement agency.

Recommendation 11:
Amend the Code to allow DCJS to charge a fee of applicants to recover the costs of regulation, registration and certification of Conservators under § 19.2- 13.
(*1) See Attachment 1: Senate Joint Resolution 69 (2002).