Florida House to take up police reform bill

A bipartisan police reform bill is being debated in the Florida House. The measure addresses controversial police tactics such as chokeholds and whether to ban them.

The proposal would also require officers to intervene and stop another officer from using excessive force.

The goal: to gain trust in law enforcement. The calls for police reform from last summer echo throughout the proposal.

David Thomas, Ph.D., a former police officer who is now a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, said it isn’t just about legislation – it really comes down to action.

The bill – HB 7051 – would add use-of-force training for officers, which is essential, according to Thomas.

Part of the bill is also limiting the use of the chokehold, stating it would only be allowed when an officer is in danger of severe or fatal injury.

Thomas said it’s a necessary gray area because it’s different for everyone and he believes it’s the most abused term over the past decade.

“The public looks at that as not a legitimate excuse. They don’t look at that as a legitimate use of force but rather a crutch or excuse. So it has weakened the officer’s ability to stand on those words.”

Under the proposal, officers would be responsible to act if they witness excessive force.

“The attempt is to break down the blue wall of silence and force officers to intervene and hold the other officers who failed to intervene accountable,” Thomas said.

He said it’s up to the officers to truly make the change.

“Unless that agency does something on its part to become partners with that community and they get to know the people, then all the legislation in the world isn’t going to change.”

Another aspect of the bill is more transparency in the job application process. Applicants will have to be more forthcoming on whether they’ve ever been the subject of an investigation.

Thomas said this is normally done during a thorough background check. If it isn’t properly funded, smaller agencies will be put at a disadvantage.

Reporter:Zach Oliveri
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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