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Politics / Issues
Get the latest coverage of the 2021 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Police Reform Bill Passes Florida Senate Unanimously, Now Heads To Governor

The police reform bill that has garnered bipartisan support is going to Gov. Ron DeSantis. The bill was a product of House and Senate leadership working with the Legislative Black Caucus.

The police reform bill that has garnered bipartisan support is going to Gov. Ron DeSantis. The bill was a product of House and Senate leadership working with the Legislative Black Caucus.

A few weeks ago, talk about law enforcement reform largely went unnoticed. Fast forward to the present, and the Florida Senate has unanimously passed a police reform bill aimed at covering de-escalation training, limiting the use of chokeholds, and requiring officers to disclose whether they’ve ever been investigated for using excessive force.

Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, took part in protests last summer following the police killing of George Floyd. “I think that they’re those who will look at this and say that with a summer of unrest after the George Floyd murder, we needed to do substantial criminal justice reform,” Rouson said. “This is a good start it gives us a foundation to build upon for next session, and we should tell the world keep watching.”

Still, some advocates for police reform believe the bill doesn’t go far enough. For example, it does not include penalties for police officers who’ve used excessive force, nor does it abolish qualified immunity -- a legal doctrine that provides law enforcement officers protection from certain lawsuits.

“When we talk about not enough teeth, we’re going to hear it I promise you. ‘There’s not enough teeth, there’s no enforcement, there’s no, this there’s no that.’ When you know better, you do better,” said Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville. “When you have the training and you don’t do better - you don’t protect and serve - consequences should follow, and we will get there because it’s necessary.”

“I would just say that this is a step forward. Many people have said we haven’t gone far enough, but this is a step, and I just believe that we can continue to build upon this work here,” said Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando. “I would appreciate the Republican members of this chamber to continue to work with us in the next session and in the future to continue to build upon this legislation.”

Under the proposal, officers would have a duty to intervene if they see another officer using excessive force. They would also be required to provide medical help in those situations if needed.

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