ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – From the streets in Central Florida last summer to the House Floor in Tallahassee this spring, calls for police reform in Florida are leading to some change at the state level.
Right now, the bill known as the Law Enforcement and Corrections Officers Best Practices Act (HB 7051) is making its way through the state capitol. It’s a result of 18 police reform bills filed this legislative session, many compiled into a comprehensive package setting standards at police departments across the state of Florida.
“We took all those ideas and those sparked conversations that led to this bi-partisan product,” said Republican State Representative Cord Byrd.
Some key points in the bill include:
- Prohibiting an officer who has been fired or under investigation for use of force to get hired at another agency
- Requiring law enforcement agencies to collect data to track and report use of force incidents
- Limiting the use of “chokeholds”
- Prohibiting officers from arresting children under the age of 7
The bill including the section to not arrest or charge children under the age of 7 comes from a 2019 case out of Orlando after Kaia Rolle, at just 6-years-old, was arrested with zip ties by a school resource officer. It’s something Democratic State Senator Randolph Bracy has been fighting for, pushing for the “Kaia Rolle Act.”
When it comes to setting state standards on comes to the use of chokeholds by law enforcement, News 6 asked Byrd why the bill limits chokeholds and does not institute an all-out ban.
“In our conversations with law enforcement, we didn’t want to reach the unintended consequence where a law enforcement’s only option is to use deadly force using a firearm to subdue or restrain someone. So the bill limits it so the officer only uses it when safety or life is threatened,” Byrd said.
The bill is being supported by the Florida Sheriff’s Association and backed by Orange County Sheriff John Mina.
“I think it’s a good start,” said Sheriff Mina. “There is probably things in our own policy here at the sheriff’s office that are more restrictive.”
At the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Mina said policies are constantly changing.
“We just recently started our behavioral response unit, where now a deputy is paired with a health clinician because we know many of these cases nationally may go the wrong way because someone is in a mental crisis and not all the time law enforcement has tools to solve those issues.”
Mina said he’s also an even bigger supporter of body-worn cameras, believing that should have been included in the bill as well. He said now all of his deputies have new technology triggering their body camera the moment a deputy pulls a taser his body. Soon that will be the same for a deputy’s gun at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
“We are doing the same thing with our holsters, so they will be equipped soon so when we pull our firearm out, the body-worn camera is automatically activated,” Mina said. “The thing about law enforcement, just like any profession, is things change and you can’t be afraid of change. You have to be able to adapt based on the community needs and community wants.”
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