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Florida lawmakers are close to passing a bill preempting civilian oversight of police

Under the bill, the state would decide who handles investigations and misconduct cases, not the cities
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/
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Under the bill, the state would decide who handles investigations and misconduct cases, not the cities

The Florida Legislature has voted overwhelmingly to curtail civilian oversight of law enforcement or correctional officers. The measure would preempt the authority of local governments in cases of police misconduct.

There are 21 Florida cities with active citizen police review boards. But under this preemption measure, House Bill 601, the state would decide who handles investigations and misconduct cases, not the cities.

Supporters of the bill object to citizens sitting on the oversight boards who are suspicious of law enforcement. But N.R. Hines, a policy strategist at the ACLU of Florida, says that’s a strength, not a weakness.

“So if there are individuals who are greatly in support of law enforcement, or there could be individuals who are on the other side of that spectrum -- but that’s what makes up our community -- and they all deserve to have their voices heard in terms of police accountability.”

According to a 2021 study by the LeRoy Collins Institute, cities with citizen oversight agencies have seen a reduction in total Black arrest rates per 100,000 compared to cities that don’t have them.

Follow @MargieMenzel

Margie Menzel covers local and state government for WFSU News. She has also worked at the News Service of Florida and Gannett News Service. She earned her B.A. in history at Vanderbilt University and her M.S. in journalism at Florida A&M University.