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How Florida got bipartisan police reform -- and what was lost to achieve it

Romy Ellenbogen, Tampa Bay Times on

Published in News & Features

The new law mandates a duty to intervene if another law enforcement officer is doing something wrong, requires officers to provide medical attention to people in their custody, limits the use of chokeholds and requires job applicants to disclose if they left a prior agency while under investigation, among other changes.

Driskell said she wasn’t surprised at the endorsement from major law enforcement organizations, saying House leadership helped by reaching out to get their perspective.

“We were both willing to give some to take some and the result is House Bill 7051,” she said.

Driskell said her constituents were surprised the bill passed unanimously, especially considering the backdrop of the “anti-riot” bill.

But even supporters of that anti-riot bill came out in favor of the police reform bill, saying it would help rebuild public trust in the system after a tumultuous year.

Sprowls said he thinks the bill was a great piece of collaborative legislation.

 

“I’m the son of a police officer, I’m a former prosecutor,” Sprowls said. “It is as important to me as it is to other folks to make sure all communities have confidence in their justice system.”

Sprowls said the issues of data transparency and trust in the criminal justice system have always been important to him. In 2018, when he was chair of the judiciary committee, he championed a law that required the state to collect granular data on every misdemeanor and felony case in the state to provide transparency on any biases in the criminal justice system.

While the data collection mandated by that law is behind schedule, Sprowls said he saw this year’s police reform bill as a “natural progression” of his efforts.

Bracy said he wanted to see requirements for body cameras and to create accountability for when officers violated provisions of the bill. Rouson expressed a similar sentiment at a St. Petersburg College forum earlier this month, saying the bill “didn’t have any teeth in it for failure to comply.”

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