Florida’s new bipartisan-supported policing law aims to change the culture of policing in the state.
The law, signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and supported on both sides of the aisle, introduced significant changes to law enforcement agencies across the state, and requires agencies to update their use-of-force policies, ban chokeholds and conduct more thorough background checks on officers with troubled histories. It also requires that officers intervene if a fellow officer uses excessive force and mandates independent reviews of use-of-force incidents or discharges of a firearm that lead to injury or death.
The bill was signed into law just five days after Derek Chauvin was convicted and sentenced to over 22 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd.
The law’s passage also marked a change in tone from DeSantis’ approach to crime and law enforcement policy, especially after he passed a controversial anti-riot bill earlier this year that increased penalties for those involved in violent protests.
Experts say that while the change in policy is important, it will take time to change the culture of Florida law enforcement.
David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who teaches on police behavior, law enforcement and race told the Herald Tribune: “Policy is important. But changing the culture in agencies takes time. Culture will eat policy for breakfast, every time.”
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri welcomed the change. “It’s a new day,” he said. “Some departments are already doing some of the things in this law. But it’s an even newer day for others.”
Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, a member of the Legislative Black Caucus and a sponsor of the new law, claimed that Floridians supported the change, and believes the law will start repairing the trust between law enforcement agencies and communities.
“The frame of this law sets how we can support just and fair policing. The sheriffs and police chiefs want good officers and good relationships with their communities. That’s what we’re hoping this law advances,” she said.
Experts say that the policy provides a blueprint for agencies to institute reform.
“Good policy, good training and good supervision is what’s needed,” Harris said. “And you really should act to get rid of the people who don’t belong there.”
According to the Herald Tribune, the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission has two years to implement the changes to use-of-force, de-escalation, mental health and other procedures in basic training for incoming officers.
South Carolina law professor and former Tallahassee police officer Stoughton said it will be years before real changes are seen.
“Change is slow in police departments,” said Seth Stoughton, a former Tallahassee police officer. “Each generation of officers learns its trade at the hands of more experienced officers. You can tell the new class, ‘Here’s what you should do,’ but if the senior officers are not enforcing that, it takes time or gets lost. Training has to be reinforced by policy and supervision. If supervisors and an officer’s peers don’t expect them to do something, it won’t get done,” he added.