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Some Florida lawmakers push for police reform, experts explain what that might mean for citizens

Posted at 3:56 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 18:25:36-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Police reform is a hot topic among federal and local leaders, as we work to close the gap of racial discrimination in our country. But there’s a lot of confusion about what a reform might look like, and what the impact might be for citizens and police.

Florida Senator Janet Cruz (D) Tampa and Representative Dianne Hart (D) Tampa announced Thursday that they have "begun to craft legislation addressing the explicit, systemic, inadequacies in the criminal justice system and policing for Black Americans.”

In a press release Thursday they said they "have conducted preliminary meetings with various stakeholders, and look forward to continuing that process."

They also outlined three areas and three separate bills they say their legislation would be focused on:

  • Law enforcement guidelines that will prohibit strangleholds, choke-holds and emphasize de-escalation techniques
  • Additional oversight through the creation of Citizen Review Boards (CRBs) throughout the state, and empowering these CRBs to investigate instances of excessive force
  • Robust K-12 education that details the historic and present-day racism that Black Americans are subjected to throughout our societal structures.

But as calls to “defund the police” continue to grow, so does concern over what kind of trickle-down effect that might have on citizens relying on the police for safety.

“We’re still going to have those response teams, there’s still going to be a need for SWAT, there’s still going to be a need for tactical response teams, there’s still going to be 911 and first responders,” said Tonya Krause-Phelan, Professor of Criminal Law at WMU Cooley.

Experts assure a police reform would not defund police, but instead, would reallocate some police funding toward other community resources.

“What they’re really talking about is diverting money that’s being used for all of this militaristic training that really isn’t necessary across this country on a daily basis,” said Krause-Phelan.

Placing a greater focus on de-escalation training, and increasing funding for mental health resources.

“Fundamentally, getting back to the idea that the funds that are used for law enforcement deal with the community,” said Krause Phelan.

Mayor Jane Castor is now joining the ranks of mayors in Cincinnati and Chicago, forming the United States Conference of Mayors Police Reform and Racial Justice Working Group, working to end injustices facing black Americans.

In a statement from Mayor Castor on the United States Conference of Mayors website, she said:

“Generational and systemic racism didn’t happen overnight and we won’t fix it overnight, but we must self-reflect and create progressive, actionable, transparent and accountable solutions.”

The NAACP of Hillsborough County emphasizes that they do not want to defund police.

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“Not all police officers are bad, there are some really good ones. I can say Chief Dugan has been really good at addressing the concerns that do come into this office,” said Yvette Lewis, president of the NAACP of Hillsborough County.

But rather, they want an evaluation of how things might be better run.

“Your blue is not like my blues. You have never walked in my shoes. You see, when I call the police to my house, I have a big fear. I know I called them because I’m in distress, but then my other fear is, how are they going to treat me,” said Lewis.

They’re hoping Mayor Castor will be open to having those conversations with them.