A police reform bill encompassing a long list of changes to police operations, employment, training and use-of-force has passed the Florida legislature and heads to the governor to be signed into law. Gov. Ron DeSantis has not commented on whether or not he will sign it.
House Bill 7051 requires that law enforcement examine their use-of-force policies and establish standards that can be implemented in training. It specifically calls on the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission to develop standards for instruction to be added to officers’ basic skills training regarding the use-of-force, and focuses on de-escalation techniques and limiting chokeholds. It also requires officers to intervene if a fellow officer is using unnecessary force.
The bipartisan measure, which passed without any dissenting votes, requires more extensive background checks of applicants in order to prevent “bad cops” from being hired, and would require law enforcement agencies to launch independent investigations by another agency for any incident leading to death. It also requires applicants to disclose if they left a job while under investigation.
Another provision in the bill was influenced by the “Kaia Rolle Act,” which prohibits the arrest of a child younger than 7 years of age.
The bill has been seen as a triumph by African American law makers in the state, who say it is a push back to Florida’s recent bills cracking down on violent protesters.
Rep. Fentrice Driskell and sponsor of the bill said, “Americans across the country have been calling for police reform. The murder of George Floyd has been a galvanizing incident, bringing much-needed attention to this crisis. This legislation stands in stark contrast to the dangerous anti-protest bill that Governor DeSantis signed into law recently.”
However, Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones said the bill did not go far enough, mentioning specific issues that were not addressed.
“What we don’t see here today, when we’re talking about police reform, is ending qualified immunity, banning no-knock warrants, banning racial and religious profiling, and creating a national database of police misconduct,” he said.
The bill now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk for review.