Policing Changes Stalled As Florida Legislative Session Winds Down

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After the Florida Legislative Black Caucus rolled out a slew of policing reform bills in February, many of the measures have not been heard in committees as time winds down on the 60-day legislative session.

House and Senate committees are scheduled to stop meeting early next week. After that, legislation that hasn’t been heard would have to wait until next year. This year’s session is slated to end April 30.

The issue of policing reform is again receiving focus nationally as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin stands trial in the May death of George Floyd and after Daunte Wright, a Black man, was shot and killed by police Sunday in a Minneapolis suburb.

“My heart broke,” state Rep. Fentrice Driskell, a Tampa Democrat who is a member of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, said during a press availability Monday. “I can tell you that that’s the process that Black Americans go through each and every time there is a shooting of an unarmed Black person.”

House Minority Co-leader Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, said that “trying to get some common-sense police reform through this process has not been very easy” in the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

Driskell held out hope for bills backed by the caucus, despite Republican leaders not scheduling committee hearings on the measures.

“We continue to work on these issues, and we will do so until the clock runs out with (the) legislative session. We do still have an opportunity to get some of this heard in the main committees, which are still meeting,” Driskell said.

Among the proposals are bills (SB 452 and HB 569) that would mandate body cameras be worn by officers in every Florida law enforcement agency. Another proposal (SB 942 and HB 647) would set a minimum standard for police training in de-escalation tactics.

“This is not an indictment of the law enforcement community as a whole, but it is to say that there’s opportunity and room for growth here. Opportunity for greater transparency and accountability in policing,” Driskell said.

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