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Police reform package on the way to Florida's governor

'This is a good start,' Sen. Darryl Rouson says
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Posted at 7:06 PM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-29 19:06:29-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's first major police reform package in years is headed to the governor. Senators gave final legislative approval Thursday with a unanimous vote.

Florida's Legislative Black Caucus negotiated the bill with the GOP majority in hopes of easing tensions between law enforcement and communities of color. The deal followed the killing of George Floyd and national unrest last year.

"Both parties came together to put forth this legislation to make policing better in Florida," said House Minority Leader Bobby DuBose, D-Fort Lauderdale. "It will safeguard and support good law enforcement officers while protecting vulnerable Floridians."

HB 7051 pulls together ideas from at least 20 other bills offered this session.

Its provisions include:

  • Improved use of force training for law enforcement
  • Limits on when chokeholds can be used
  • Better record-keeping to prevent the hiring of bad officers
  • Prevents the arrest of kids 7 and younger unless they commit forcible felonies
Dr. Micah Kubic, Florida ACLU executive director
Dr. Micah Kubic with the Florida ACLU says the bill falls short.

The Florida ACLU said the measure brings best practices already in use to departments across the state, but it falls short in other ways.

"It's just about the most modest first step that could be taken," said Dr. Micah Kubic, Florida ACLU executive director. "I don't think it really gets at the heart of the matter. I don't think it gets to the heart of the impunity that has existed."

Critics also say the bill lacks teeth for enforcement. However, supporters are looking to the future.

State Sen. Darryl Rouson
State Sen. Darryl Rouson was among the Democratic lawmakers who voiced support for the bill.

"This is a good start," said State Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. "It gives us a foundation for us to build upon for the next session. We should tell the world, keep watching."

The governor gets the bill next and has been quiet on whether he'll sign. Members were hopeful, however. Law enforcement associations, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and every voting member of the Legislature were in support.

"I would hope that he would listen," said State Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa. "Not only to the Legislature but to the voices of the 21 million we represent, and sign this good bill into law."

We've reached out to Gov. Ron DeSantis's office for comment on the policy. Still no word on where he stands.