The Florida Legislative Black Caucus unveiled a sweeping police reform package on Tuesday, marking the group’s most ambitious effort yet to reshape policing practices in Florida.
The 16-bill package comes after a year marred by police violence, riots and political polarization. The package seeks to “promote fair and just policing reforms” by addressing issues including no-knock warrants, police militarization and more.
The package also endeavors to make policing more transparent in Florida.
Speaking at a Tuesday press conference at the Florida Capitol, House Democratic Leader Bobby DuBose contended too many communities distrust police.
“For many of us, the reality is we live in two Americas, two Floridas,” Dubose said. “One Florida has families telling their kids to trust and look for the police when they’re in trouble. The other Florida has communities that are fearful of law enforcement officers.”
While the package addresses a wide variety of contentious issues, Democratic House Co-Leader Evan Jenne highlighted that none of the measures remove funding from law enforcement.
“When you look at the bills that are being rolled out right now, there’s one thing that’s very clear: No one is pushing to defund the police,” Jenne said.
Package proponents acknowledge they will face an uphill battle in Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature.
They noted, however, that Chamber leaders and police agencies and associations were consulted throughout the drafting.
“We were able to take a collaborative approach and make sure that all voices and input are included,” Democratic Rep. Fentrice Driskell told reporters. “That’s where you get a final product that everyone can be proud of. So yes, I am optimistic that some of this legislation will move and once it moves we’ll define that as a success.”
Below are the packages’ featured proposals.
HB 6057: Law Enforcement Officers’ and Correctional Officers’ Rights
Democratic Rep. Omari Hary proposed legislation to reform the Police Bill of Rights.
In a statement, Hardy contended the current Police Bill of Rights contains loopholes and technicalities, making it difficult to hold police accountable.
The bill, HB 6057, seeks to repeal those loopholes.
It also seeks to revoke other provisions related to officer-provided statements, inactive investigations and complaints made against police.
HB 479: Compensation for Excessive Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officers
Democratic Rep. Ramon Alexander proposed a bill to provide compensation to victims of excessive force by law enforcement.
HB 479 would expand the definition of “crime” to include police victims into the Florida Crimes Compensation Act.
Minor children of non-deceased victims would also be eligible to be compensated for mental health treatment.
Further, the proposal would block law enforcement from to denying use-of-force claims because of delayed reporting or a victim’s unwillingness to cooperate.
HB 521/SB 868 No-Knock Search Warrants
Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell and Rep. Christopher Benjamin proposed legislation to restrict the use of no-knock warrants.
The bill would also require law enforcement agency heads to review and approve all warrants.
Agency leaders would need to determine that a warrant is the “only way” to gather evidence and decide the safest “course of action” for officers,” according to the bill packet.
Moreover, leaders would need to ensure an “extremely limited likelihood” that innocent individuals may be harmed during the search warrant.
HB 569/SB 452 Law Enforcement Body and Dashboard Cameras
Democratic Rep. Kevin Chambliss and Sen. Randolph Bracy proposed legislation to require body cameras and dashboard cameras.
HB 647/SB 942 Law Enforcement Agency Standards
Democratic Rep. Tracie Davis and Sen. Audrey Gibson proposed legislation to address chokeholds and excessive use of force.
Further, the bills would define law enforcement officer qualifications, compensation, hiring and termination.
“It is evident that there is an insufficient amount of training as it relates to mental health, implicit bias, restraining techniques, cultural sensitivity, and cultural competence,” said Davis, a Jacksonville lawmaker. “These are just some of the issues that needed to change yesterday.”
Under the proposal, officers could be terminated or suspended for too many excessive force incidents or unlawful practices.
HB 6035 Use or Threatened Use of Deadly Force
Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson proposed legislation to essentially end “stand your ground” defenses in Florida.
HB 6035 seeks to delete a Florida law provision “allowing the use or threatened use of deadly force to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”
Hinson contends the legislation would limit “insidious” self-defense claims.
“To this day, the murder of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman haunts the African American community,” Hinson, a Gainesville lawmaker said. “We have seen throughout history various laws and legal principles enacted to preserve the status quo of White supremacy. Stand Your Ground is no different. It’s a long past time for Florida to go in a new direction.”
HB 187/ SB 878 Law Enforcement Equipment
Democratic Reps. Tray McCurdy and Angie Nixon and Sen. Perry Thurston proposed legislation to prohibit police use of military-grade equipment and weapons.
The lawmakers contend military-grade weapons and equipment do not reduce crime, according to the bill package.
HB 577 Law Enforcement Officer Use of Force
Democratic Rep. Anika Omphroy and Sen. Bobby Powell proposed legislation requiring the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to maintain a database tracking excessive use of force incidents.
The proposal, HB 577, would also require an annual report detailing law enforcement agencies and officers who have an “excessive number” of use of force complaints.
The companion Senate bill number is not yet available.
HB 513/SB 458 Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officers
Rep. Tray McCurdy and Sen. Randolph Bracy filed legislation that would require juries to consider whether a criminally charged officer attempted to de-escalate before resorting to force when making an arrest.
HB 261/SB 670 Reforming Qualified Immunity
Democratic Rep. Michele Rayner and Sen. Shevrin Jones filed legislation to end qualified immunity for government employees.
HB 299 Criminal Justice Standards and Training
Democratic Rep. Felicia Robinson proposed legislation that would provide uniform law enforcement standards in Florida.
HB 299 would also require agencies to maintain accreditation and establish a review process for agencies that do not.
“Accreditation is nothing new for large agencies,” said Robinson, a Miami Gardens lawmaker. “Other state agencies go through an accreditation as it allows for accountability and adds a layer of transparency. I see this as a good move for both the agencies and the people of Florida.”
HB 277/SB 480 Statewide Police Misconduct Registry
Democratic Rep. Bracy and Geraldine Thompson proposed legislation to create a police misconduct registry.
The proposal would require law enforcement agencies to publish the information on a website.
HB 303 Minimum Age for Arrest
Democratic Rep. Patricia Williams proposed legislation to establish a minimum arrest age.
HB 303 would prohibit the arrest of a minor younger than 10 years old. Currently, there is no law establishing a minimum age for arrest in Florida.
“You’re supposed to protect us, but who’s going to protect us from you,” Williams, a Fort Lauderdale lawmaker, said. “Correctional facilities have now become collection facilities.”
HB 2625 Town of Davie-Body Camera Program
Democratic Rep. Robin Bartleman proposed legislation, HB 2625, to provide a non-recurring $200,000 appropriation for the Town of Davie-Body Camera Program.
HB 739/SB 442 Juror Service
Democratic Sen. Bracy and Rep. Kristen Arrington proposed legislation to increase juror compensation.