Virginia State Police troopers' duties to check on registered sex offenders could be shifted to unarmed civilians under a little-noticed provision in the two-year state budget pending before the General Assembly.
Tucked into the $85 billion spending blueprint is Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposal to hire 43 "non-sworn" personnel to monitor people "required to comply with the requirements of the Sex Offender Registry."
Under the current system, troopers and state parole and probation officers conduct semi-annualresidence and employment status checks on thousands of registered offenders.
Administration officials such as Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling have said the switch would "free up troopers currently in that unit to get back on the roads" for patrol and other functions.
However, the plan has triggered alarm bells for an organization that lobbies to change sex offender laws. Its implementation also is being watched closely by a State Police advocacy group.
Mary Devoy, executive director of Reform Sex Offender Laws of Virginia, said: "We understand the state is looking to cut costs, but appointing inexperienced and insensitive rent-a-cops to conduct home and employment checks would be a big mistake."
Devoy wants troopers to continue to perform this function because she believes they have the background and training to deal with sex offenders.
Now, the public is becoming more aware of the proposed change.
The topic came up this month when a listener to a local call-in radio show asked the governor about the wisdom of sending civilians to the doors of possibly dangerous convicted felons instead of hiring more troopers. ..Continued.. by Julian Walker
Thursday, March 29, 2012