Va. attorney general starts Office of Civil Rights

By Ned Oliver Virginia Mercury

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced Tuesday he's creating an Office of Civil Rights dedicated to investigating allegations of discrimination in policing, housing and employment.

"The Office of Civil Rights will enhance our ability to protect Virginians from discrimination in housing, employment and public life, as well as allow us to tackle new responsibilities, like 'pattern and practice' investigations that can root out and end unconstitutional policing and enforcing protections against discrimination for LGBTQ Virginians," Mr. Herring said in a statement.

He said the new office replaces and expands the Office of Human Rights, which had one attorney and three staffers when he took office. The new office will have a staff of seven attorneys and six staffers, including investigators, he said.

Mr. Herring tied the reorganization to the passage of a handful of bills passed by new Democratic majorities last year that expand the duties of his office, including legislation that authorizes the attorney general to investigate discrimination in local police departments and sweeping bills banning LGBTQ and gender-based discrimination.

He said the new office can be reached at 804-225-2292 or

The announcement comes as Mr. Herring, a Democrat, faces a primary challenge from Del. Jay Jones (D-Norfolk), who himself announced a proposal to create a dedicated civil rights division within the attorney general's office in early November.

"A focused and empowered Civil Rights Division would weed out institutional racism from our financial institutions, our government, and even from within the Office of Attorney General itself," Mr. Jones said in the statement announcing his plan. "We must lean into the urgency of the moment with actions that reflect our commitment to true racial justice, not just words."

Both Mr. Herring and Mr. Jones said they'll pursue legislation to make the new office permanent when the General Assembly convenes next week.

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