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Florida Sheriffs Talk Possible Legislative Priorities, 'Blue Lives Matter Act'

Sascha Cordner
Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) President and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, and Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell speaking on different topics in Tallahassee.

A Senate effort to expand Florida’s hate crime law to include law enforcement could be called the “Blue Lives Matter Act.” But, while the Florida Sheriffs supports the intent, they’re not so happy about the name.

Blue Lives Matter

There’s already a House bill filed for the 2017 legislative session enhancing the penalties for committing a crime against law enforcement officers, corrections officers, and judges. While a Senate bill has not yet been filed, Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley says he’ll likely file a similar measure—calling it the “Blue Lives Matter Act.”

“Of course, I believe the Sheriffs are going to support anything that kind of enhances penalties when law enforcement or correctional officers are specifically targeted,” said Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell, who also heads the Florida Sheriffs Association Task Force. “But, quite frankly, in my personal opinion, I wish they would go away from the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ because it tends to put one life against another, and in all honestly, everybody’s life matters. I wish we could get away from these labels.”

While the Florida Police Benevolent Association is making this a priority bill, union representatives say they too share similar concerns about the name.

Legislative Priorities

There are now body camera laws on the books, which include how the video should be used and disseminated to the Florida public. But, Florida Sheriffs Association President and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings says if the legislature decides to modify the new laws next year, the Sheriffs will be keeping a close eye on public records, especially as it relates to body camera footage.

“Like security video footage or even the retention of records related to active criminal investigations, such as a video that depicts the death or serious injury of a person and whether that this something that should remain limited in terms of disclosure to the public,” said Demings.

Demings says the Sheriffs will also be monitoring gun bills as well as public-safety related legislation.

Both Demings and Prummell were in Tallahassee Monday for the new sheriffs academy. After the November election, a third of Florida’s elected sheriffs are new. Demings says the new class came to the Capital city for some training to get more acclimated to their role.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.