Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation aiming to reform police use-of-force policies and update law enforcement operational standards.
Bill HB7051 which is the first and only police reform legislation passed by the state since the death of George Floyd last year, is also one of the few pieces of legislation backed by the Democratic minority to make it to the governor’s desk.
The legislation was a bipartisan, collaborative effort between House Republicans and Black lawmakers, and passed unanimously in the House and Senate. The bill also received full support from law enforcement organizations and advocacy groups.
Provisions in the bill include limits on the use of chokeholds, updated use-of-force training, more diligent record-keeping and background checks to filter out bad officers, and ending the arrest of children 7 years or younger for non-violent offenses. The latter provision comes after result after body camera footage was released in February showing the arrest of a 6-year-old girl at a school in Orlando. Kaia Rolle was accused of battering three staff members, and could be seen crying and saying “Please let me go” as an officer put zip ties on her wrists. That officer was later fired.
The law now requires every law enforcement agency to have a use-of-force policy that includes these and other provisions to ensure a basic state-wide standard for how police use force. Under the law, excessive force will be defined as “use of force that exceeds the degree of force permitted by law, policy, or the observing officer’s employing agency.”
Other provisions in the law require agencies to adopt guidelines for proportional use-of-force, as well as methods on how to de-escalate situations. Chokeholds will be banned unless the officer “perceives an immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death.”
In addition, officers will be taught to intervene if a fellow officer is using excessive force, and to provide medical assistance to suspects injured during a use-of-force incident.
Finally, the bill requires police to recognize signs of mental illness and drug addiction and be trained to respond appropriately.
Florida’s Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission is now tasked with developing a training course that will be mandatory for all new recruits starting July 1, 2023.
The law went into effect on July 1.