Jun 21, 2021 - Politics

Florida's tug-of-war on police power

Sheriff deputies stand guard as protesters walk past during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida is one of the few states that moved to both expand police authority and pass police reforms in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, per the AP.

What happened so far: The Legislature this session passed a so-called "anti-riot" bill that ups penalties for crimes committed during protests, and also a police reform bill.

Where it stands: HB 7051, the reform action backed by the Florida Legislative Black Caucus but not yet signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, would among other things:

  • Set limits on, but not ban, use of chokeholds.
  • Require an officer who observes another officer engaging in excessive use of force to intervene.
  • Establish a duty to render aid to a person in custody who is injured by an officer’s use of force.
  • Require a commission to establish standards for police training in use of force, and require agencies to develop policies in proportional use of force and de-escalation techniques.
  • Require independent reviews of officers’ use of force resulting in a death or the intentional firing of a firearm resulting in injury or death.

Another big thing: The law would also require agencies to report use-of-force incidents that result in serious bodily injury, death, or the discharge of a firearm at a person.

  • No central agency keeps track of police shootings in our state, where the Tampa Bay Times found that an average of 138 people are shot by police each year.
  • Complicating things: A state appeals court ruled recently that the names of police officers who shoot citizens cannot be made public if the officers themselves are crime victims, which is almost always the case in such incidents.

The local angle: Tampa City Council members voted 4-3 last week on a compromise to equally share appointments to an 11-member police oversight board with Mayor Jane Castor, while leaving one seat open for the NAACP to nominate a member.

  • That means the council gets 5 picks, the mayor gets 5 picks and the NAACP gets one pick.

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