Michael Lee Pope

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Michael Lee Pope is an award-winning journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and Northern Virginia Magazine. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. Pope is the author of four books.

Recent Stories

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An Election about Elections

Voters to determine how redistricting works next year.

When Republicans were in charge of drawing political boundaries for the General Assembly and Congress, Democrats supported an amendment to the Virginia Constitution creating a new mapmaking commission. The idea was to take the power of political gerrymandering out of the hands of the majority and hand it over to a group that wouldn’t be quite so focused on screwing the opposition. But then Democrats seized control of the General Assembly, and most House Democrats flip flopped on the issue.

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Mask Penalty Indoors, Side-Eye Outdoors

State Senate approves civil penalty indoors, City Council ditches fines outdoors.

Not wearing a mask indoors might get you a $500 fine from the Commonwealth of Virginia, although failing to wear on the sidewalk outside will get you just a side-eye from the City of Alexandria.

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The Fight for Paid Leave

After effort for paid sick days falters, lawmakers move toward paid quarantine leave.

The fight for paid sick days is on hold for now, and advocates have moved to a fallback position for the special session of the Virginia General Assembly: quarantine leave.

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Drop-Box Election

Pandemic protocols rewrite rules on voting.

When absentee ballots are distributed in the next two weeks, voters will have a new option to exercise their franchise: a drop box, which will be installed outside the Registrar’s office on North Royal Street.

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Automated Justice?

Lawmakers to consider automatic expungements for misdemeanors.

Virginia is one of 10 states that offers almost no way for people convicted of misdemeanors to expunge their records, creating roadblocks for people trying to get a job or rent an apartment. Even when a jury finds defendants in Virginia not guilty or when prosecutors dropped charges, allegations remain on records as a stain that can cause problems for years to come. That’s why lawmakers are about to consider a proposal from the Virginia Crime Commission on automatic expungement, which is expected to be released early next week.

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Reforming the Police

Lawmakers consider sweeping set of proposals to change policing in Virginia.

Only a few hours into a special session of the General Assembly earlier this week, members of a Senate panel passed a sweeping bill on policing reform that does everything from banning no-knock warrants and limiting chokeholds to creating use-of-force standards and requiring de-escalation training.

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Night Court

Lawmakers to consider eliminating no-knock warrants, new hurdles for nighttime search warrants.

Lawmakers in Virginia are about to consider banning no-knock warrants and creating a new requirement that judges — not magistrates — sign off on search warrants executed at night.

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Dangling Liberty

Lawmakers to consider putting pretextual stops in the rearview mirror.

Do you have a parking pass dangling from your rearview mirror? What about rosary beads or a graduation tassel? Police officers can use that as a pretext to pull you over and ask to search your car.

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Progressive Prosecutors Lobby for Justice

Commonwealth’s Attorneys from Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax join forces to press for reform.

As lawmakers prepare to return to Richmond for a special session on criminal justice reform, this group of likeminded prosecutors known as the Progressive Prosecutors for Justice will be pushing for a package of criminal-justice reform bills that does not have the backing of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys.

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At the Crossroads

Lawmakers to slash the state budget and consider criminal-justice reforms.

The threadbare Franklin and Armfield office on Duke Street stands at the crossroads between racial injustice and economic crisis. It’s a ramshackle building now, but it was once the headquarters for the largest domestic slave trading firm in the United States, present at the creation of the systemic racism that plagues Virginia cops and courts. It’s also the city’s latest acquisition, and the state budget was to include $2.5 million to help transform it into the Freedom House Museum. But then the pandemic hit, and the governor hit the pause button on that line item as well as all the other spending priorities of the new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

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