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Police reform signed into law

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 5:47 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - Under new legislation signed by the governor, police officers will be better trained to de-escalate situations, agencies will no longer be allowed to investigate use of force incidents in which a firearm was intentionally discharged and someone is hurt or dies and police will be required to intervene if they observe a fellow office using extreme force.

The newly signed legislation requires what three of the four officers charged in the death of George Floyd didn’t do: Intervene to stop the knee on Floyd’s neck and to seek medical attention.

“There were protests last summer,” said State Representative Fentrice Driskell who sponsored the legislation.

Driskell called the legislation an effort to respond to the feeling expressed by many in 2020.

“We can look at 7051 and be proud that now there will be more robust and uniform basic training standards throughout the state,” said Driskell.

For the first time, there will be a state database to keep track of use of force incidents that result in serious bodily injury, death or the discharge of a firearm at a person.

“And perhaps we can keep a closer eye on what’s happening at these law enforcement agencies. Identify any hot spots,” said Driskell.

There are also new efforts to keep bad cops from moving from one agency to another.

Officers applying for a new job must disclose if they left the previous job under a cloud, and the previous agency has to be truthful when they’re contacted about a background check.

“It means something,” said Walton County Sheriff Mike Atkinson in an April committee hearing.

Atkinson, who testified for the bill, called the legislation a historic compromise

“At the end of the day, we need to know what police officers, deputies, correction officers have a history of problems elsewhere,” said Atkinson.

The legislation passed both Houses unanimously.

“You know, this bill is an excellent first step, but I think there is still so much work to do. Whether it’s in the area of body cameras, and can we get some uniformity for that statewide,” said Driskell.

The legislation also bans chokeholds except to save the life of the officer or someone else.

There’s also new training required in the proportional use of force and alternatives for de-escalating a situation, and new instruction on how to respond to someone who is mentally ill or drug-addled.

The legislation also bans the arrest of anyone under seven except for a forcible felony.

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