Florida lawmakers passed a series of bills affecting law enforcement agencies this week, and at least two are headed to the Governor’s desk for approval.
Anti-Speed Trap Bill
After unanimously passing the House Wednesday, the so-called anti-speed trap bill is now headed to the Governor. It’s had other names, including the “Ticket quota bill” as well as the “Waldo bill.” It stems from a small north Florida town called Waldo, which was considered one of the nation’s worst speed traps.
The police force there was forced to disband last year, after it came out that not only were officers under a quota to write a certain number of speeding tickets, it accounted for a significant part of the city’s budget.
And, Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Fort Myers), the bill’s House sponsor, says his measure would ban that practice—which is not currently illegal.
“This bill would prohibit state agencies and entities from having traffic citation quotas,” said Rodrigues. “It would also require counties and municipalities to report to the Legislative Auditing Committee if the total revenue received in a fiscal year from traffic citations that exceeds 33 percent of the total expenses incurred to operate its law enforcement agency in the same fiscal year.”
Arthur Green, Jr. Act
Another measure now heading to the Governor’s desk is a bipartisan one that passed the House Wednesday and just passed the Senate Thursday. Sen. Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando) is one of the bill’s sponsors.
“This bill would require the Department of Law Enforcement to establish an online continuing employment training component relating to diabetic emergencies to make sure that when a person is experiencing a diabetic episode, they’re not confused with inebriation or some other condition,” said Thompson.
Sen. Charlie Dean (R-Inverness), a former Sheriff, applauded the bill.
“Years ago, when I was a sheriff, I asked the training situation to be developed to take care of the exact situation,” recalled Dean. “Some years later, I think it’s wonderful we’re addressing this issue.”
Rep. Ed Narain (D-Tampa), the bill’s House sponsor, says the Arthur Green, Jr. Act is named after a Tampa man who died last year from a diabetic episode while in police custody.
“Mr. Green was a community activist, who like his wife of 32 years, Lena, gave of their time and their energy to make the Tampa Bay community better,” said Narain. “His tragic passing during a traffic stop last year prompted the need for this legislation. While your vote today can’t bring Mr. Green back, it can ensure our law enforcement officers are ready to identify and assist someone in the midst of a diabetic crisis and ensure that no other family in this state will have to deal with the pain of a premature loss.”
Tracking Missing Persons With Special Needs
Another measure that passed with unanimous support is a bill by Rep. Elizabeth Porter (R-Lake City). It’s a pilot program that Porter hopes one day will expand statewide allowing law enforcement to use technological devices to help track people with special needs when they go missing.
“This bill would create a pilot project in Baker, Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwannee Counties that would be titled “Project Leo,” and it would be based on folks who have—not just children, but some young adults as well—who have autism and autism-related spectrum diseases. And, it would create a program where they would be provided devices to aid in finding them, should they elope from their home center,” said Porter.
The measure—inspired by an autistic boy named Leo who went missing last year in Live Oak—has one more stop to go in the Senate before it heads to the floor.
Body Cameras Bills
Meanwhile, the Senate passed a bill creating a public records exemption for body camera recordings done by law enforcement. It’s authored by Sen. Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale).
“Because I am a proponent of body cameras, I think every officer should be wearing body cameras and I want those cameras on because I think it protects the public and protects officers. I’ve come up with this public records exemption, which is very simple. If it’s in your home, your hospital room, a place where you deem private, that video can only be released with your consent,” said Smith.
Sen. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) praised the measure—previously mandating the body cameras—saying it will now encourage more local law enforcement agencies to use the cameras.
“You know, we’ve had some tensions in the country, and we understand—particularly in communities of color—we need to keep that integrity among our law enforcement, and sometimes our law enforcement are accused of things they didn’t do,” said Soto. “And, so this is a key transparency bill to make sure that we encourage sheriffs, encourage law enforcement without a mandate to adopt these body cameras while at the same time, assuring the privacy that’s given as a right in our Florida Constitution still exists.”
The House is expected to take up the public records exemption bill Friday. The House is also slated to take up another body cameras related measure making sure law enforcement using the cameras have guidelines in place.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.