Some Republican states have moved to empower police by expanding police authority and protections after a year of protests and a nationwide call to reform or defund police departments.
Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arizona and Iowa each passed measures that pushed back against the police reform movement and empower police and its ability to crack down on riots.
Lawmakers in these states cited the destruction and lawlessness brought about by the protests as reasons to strengthen police forces in cities.
“We have to strengthen our laws when it comes to mob violence, to make sure individuals are unequivocally dissuaded from committing violence when they’re in large groups,” Florida state Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin said, referring to an anti-riot bill that was passed recently.
In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill to expand qualified immunity to officers, and to increase penalties against protestors, including making rioting a felony.
“This is about protecting law enforcement and giving them the tools they need to keep our communities safe and showing them that we have their back,” said Rep. Jarad Klein, a supporter of the bill.
According to the AP, the bill came after the governor and Republican lawmakers promised to adopt criminal justice reforms and end discriminatory behavior.
Although Reynolds introduced measures to ban racial profiling and track racial data on traffic stops (ideas recommended by a task force), Republican lawmakers ignored the proposals.
Reform advocates and Democratic lawmakers were left disappointed.
GOP lawmakers steered clear of Democratic proposals in Oklahoma to ban chokeholds, require the use of body cameras and create a use-of-force database.
The Republican-dominated legislature instead passed a law protecting drivers whose vehicles strike and injure protesters on public streets and preventing “doxxing,” or the releasing of personal information, of officers if the intent is to stalk, harass or threaten them.
Tennessee and Arizona
As Democratic cities across the U.S. worked to create civilian police oversight boards, Republican governors in Tennessee and Arizona signed laws to expand police presence on the boards. The laws require board members to complete hours of police training or mandate that a majority of board positions be filled with sworn officers. Critics argue that the requirements defeat the purpose of civilian oversight.
Kentucky and Ohio
Other states, like Kentucky and Ohio, recently passed bills that would make filming or taunting an officer a crime. The bills are intended to protect officers.