Orlando prosecutor says state statute gives officers too many privileges when under investigation

News 6 investigates officer’s bill of rights

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A Central Florida prosecutor believes a Florida statute known as the officer’s bill of rights gives officers too many privileges when they are under investigation.

Since George Floyd’s death, law enforcement agencies are being heavily scrutinized but a local prosecutor says a change needs to be made on the legislative level.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Deb Barra has prosecuted law enforcement officers in the past and she said the Florida Statute needs to be revised.

“The officers have so many rights that it’s very difficult for the agency to get rid of those bad apples,” Barra said. “I just think that statute is harmful."

Barra is talking about Florida Statute 112, which lays out an officer’s rights when he or she is under investigation.

She particularly takes issue with section D which states:

"The complaint, all witness statements, including all other existing officer statements and all other evidence...must be provided to each officer who is the subject of the complaint before the beginning of any investigative interview."

“There is no other investigation that takes place in that manner. It’s just a poor investigation. You don’t tell the subject, ‘Here’s everything we have on you’ and give them time to work with it,” she said.

Matt Puckett is the executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

“I very respectfully disagree with that,” Puckett said. “Seeing all the evidence prior to an interview can help an officer make sure they are making concise and clear statements.”

Barra believes it can give officer's an unfair advantage and hinder departments from getting rid of officers who should be let go.

“The agency is left with, ‘OK well this person has explained everything away, it doesn’t rise to the level that we can terminate them,’” Barra said.

"If you can't rid the police of the bad seeds, it tarnishes everyone," Barra said.

Puckett believes change needs to happen too. He said law enforcement agencies need to do a better job self-policing when one officer sees another doing something wrong.

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