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After Martese Johnson's arrest, retraining ordered for Virginia alcohol agents

Virginia governor orders alcohol enforcement agents to undergo retraining after Martese Johnson arrest

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order Wednesday that requires all of the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control agents to undergo training on use-of-force policy and community policing after the bloody arrest of a University of Virginia student sparked protests.

The order, which mandates all training to be completed by September, comes one week after a photo of 20-year-old Martese Johnson, his face covered in blood, became the focus of a rallying cry in a nationwide discussion about excessive force by law enforcement agents.

Johnson, a Chicago native described by friends and classmates as a youth leader, clashed with Alcoholic Beverage Control agents after he was denied entry to a bar near the Charlottesville campus early March 18. His attorney has said Johnson struck his head on the pavement after ABC agents threw him to the ground, opening a gash on his forehead.

Johnson, who was charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice, is expected to appear in court Thursday.

The governor ordered an investigation into the agents' conduct after Johnson's arrest gained national attention, and the state police have said an administrative review is underway.

A criminal investigation was also requested by Charlottesville prosecutors, and the agents involved in the arrest have been restricted to administrative duties during the inquiry.

McAuliffe said Johnson's arrest "exposed the need for more extensive training and oversight" of the department.

Under the order, all ABC agents must undergo training in use-of-force policy, cultural diversity, interactions with youth and community policing by Sept. 1. McAuliffe also ordered a review of the agency's structure and policies to be completed by November.

The agency has been accused of overzealous enforcement in the past, including in a 2013 incident involving another University of Virginia student that resulted in a lawsuit. 

In that incident, Elizabeth Daly was walking out of a grocery store carrying a case of water when ABC agents surrounded her, according to state Sen. Creigh Deeds, a Democrat who has unsuccessfully argued for legislation that would have placed the agency under the control of Virginia's state police.

The agents had mistaken the case for beer, and in a panic, Daly tried to flee in her vehicle and was later arrested on suspicion of assault. She successfully sued the state for damages, and all charges were dropped. 

Deeds also said that aggressive enforcement by ABC agents led to problems at a large music festival in Arlington.

“The governor’s order is a good first step," Deeds told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. "The governor recognized there was a big problem here last week. He’s been on top it from the beginning, and I’m grateful.”

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