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In Last Minute Hearing Senate Rules Committee Sends Police Reform To Floor With Unanimous Vote

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The Republican-controlled legislature has passed bills cracking down on riots, and efforts aimed at changing election policies following the outcome of the 2020 election. Democrats have blasted both moves as potentially racist and haven’t hidden their disappointment with the bills. Now comes House Bill 7051—the legislature’s response to the killings of Black Americans by police which sparked the summer protests.

“The comments I’ve heard is that it doesn’t go far enough. And I would agree," said Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando. Bracy carried the bill through a last-minute hearing of the Senate Rules Committee, Tuesday.

Bracy and the Legislative Black Caucus spearheaded the effort and struck a deal with Republicans to get the bill. The measure requires law enforcement officials applying for jobs to disclose whether they’ve been the subject of a criminal, civil or internal investigation; it requires officers get more training in use-of-force and de-escalation techniques, prevents children under 7 from being arrested in most incidents and mandates the state begin tracking use-of-force incidents that result in injury or death.

“But we do have to start somewhere," Bracy said, "I don’t think there’s been a bill like this ever, definitely in the last couple decades, when it provides reforms and you have the entire legislature onboard. You have the police organizations onboard, and I think this is a moment where we can all agree it’s time to address concerns of the community and rebuild trust in certain communities with law enforcement and I think this starts that process.”

Karen Woodall, with the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy calls the proposal the first step in what she hopes will be an ongoing conversation:

“It’s a start, it’s a step," she said. "When I do my trainings and workshops…I remind myself that we’re not ever allowed to do everything comprehensively at once. So we have to take the pieces we can, and continue to work on them.”

The measure is also getting support from conservative corners, such as Americans For Prosperity. And that’s a marked difference, says Democratic Senator Perry Thurston, from where the issue was before last summer—when similar law enforcement reform proposals couldn’t even get hearings.

“As one who has spoken forcefully against legislation coming through—HB1 and SB 90—I think it would be horrible if we didn’t have some type legislation that says we recognize what’s going on with society, we recognize what’s going on and we’re trying to address it.”

The language cleared the house this week in a unanimous vote. It will now head to the Senate for final approval.