TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After a year of intense scrutiny of policing, Gov. Ron DeSantis formally received a bill Monday that includes new use-of-force training requirements for officers. He signed it within 24 hours.
The measure (HB 7051) moved swiftly through the Legislature at the end of this spring’s session after negotiations on the measure by House Republicans and Democrats.
It came after scrutiny of policing that followed the death last year of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin, who was captured on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck, was found guilty by a jury of murdering Floyd and sentenced to prison.
Orange County Sheriff John Mina said he is in support of the legislation.
“I think this is an effort to ensure that there’s consistency throughout the state of Florida, especially with some of the smaller agencies who just haven’t caught up with some of the more progressive agencies in the country and in this area who are doing it, like the Orange County Sheriff’s Office,” Mina said.
New standards aimed at limiting officers’ use of chokeholds are included in the bill. Chokeholds will be limited “to circumstances where the officer perceives an immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death to himself, herself, or another person.”
Additional key points of the bill include requiring agencies to track and report use of force incidents, prohibiting officers who are under investigation or who were fired for use of force from getting hired at another agency and prohibiting officers from arresting children younger than 7 years old.
“Here at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, we already do most of those things that are in the legislation, and I support everything else that’s in there,” Mina said.
Training also would instruct officers on a “duty to intervene in another officer’s excessive use of force,” and a “duty to render medical assistance following use of force.”
Mina said the bill creates consistency across the state and holds all law enforcement agencies to the same standard.
“I do think some of this legislation will help improve transparency and again ensure the state of Florida is consistent within all of its law enforcement agencies, specifically the use of force training and policies,” he said.
Florida Sheriff’s Association President and Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz released a statement that said “Sheriffs remain steadfast in their support to make continual improvements to their public safety profession. HB 7051 achieves that goal by making sound changes to the requirements for the operations and standards for all law enforcement agencies in Florida.”
The Orlando Police Department issued this statement:
“While the Orlando Police Department has a long history of implementing policies and training, proactively, to deliver the service our city expects, we also welcome any new initiatives that can help our officers better protect our community and ensure the fair and equitable treatment of all of its members.
Under Mayor Buddy Dyer’s Community Trust and Equity Initiative, the department also continues to participate in two extensive reviews of policy, procedure, operations, and community engagement with the Bowman Group and Dr. Randy Nelson, director of Bethune Cookman University’s Center for Law and Social Justice.”