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Proposed Police Reform Measure Gets Bipartisan Support In Florida House

Blue and red flashing sirens of police car, Ukraine
Farion Oleksandr/O.Farion
Following negotiations between the Florida Legislative Black Caucus and Republican House leadership, a police reform bill is now moving in the chamber

Police reform proposals have been largely stagnant in the Florida Legislature following a summer of social justice protests. However, that has changed.

The House Judiciary Committee has passed a bill covering de-escalation training, limiting the use of chokeholds and requiring officers to disclose whether they’ve ever been investigated.

“Trust in our public institutions is vital and none more so than trust in law enforcement,” said Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Jacksonville Beach. “This PCB (proposed committee bill) reflects the work and conversations over many months with and between lawmakers, law enforcement, and citizens. It is a bipartisan effort to promote best law enforcement practices and make them uniform throughout the state.”

Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, led the police reform negotiations in the House on behalf of the Black Caucus, calling it a collaborate effort.

“When we can focus on policy in a bipartisan way, this is the result,” Driskell said. “We get to help make our communities safer. We get to lift up our law enforcement community. This is the positive impact that we can have in this process.”

Rep. Ramon Alexander, D-Tallahassee, also pointed to the benefits of bipartisanship. He talked about a conversation he had with House Speaker Chris Sprowls following the death of George Floyd, whose killing by a police officer in Minneapolis sparked protests across the country.

“I remember after the issue with George Floyd, that tragedy, the first person to pick up the phone to call me was Speaker Sprowls,” Alexander said. “We sat on the phone for maybe two and half, three hours, and he said ‘Ramon, help me understand this.” We began to have a very in-depth conversation, and I think that is what this body should be all about.”

The measure has garnered support from multiple law enforcement organizations.

Other provisions of the bill include requiring an independent review when an officer uses deadly force and requiring officers to intervene when they see their peers use excessive force.

The proposal also loops in the Kaia Rolle Act-- which would prevent officers from arresting children under seven years old from forceful felonies.