Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Police Reform Bill Overhauling Use of Force, Child Arrests

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 4: Police officers wearing body cameras form a line in East Oakland on the second night of demonstrations following a Staten Island, New York grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner on December 4, 2014 in Oakland, …
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed a police reform bill on Tuesday night aimed at boosting department accountability. The legislation is one of the few Democrat sponsored bills to be passed this year.

Provisions of HB 7051 include limiting the use of chokeholds, improved use of force training, and better record-keeping to weed out bad apples. The bill also ends the arrest of children seven and younger for non-violent offenses.

The bill, which passed unanimously through both the Florida House and Senate, now defines chokeholds as “the intentional and prolonged application of force to the throat, windpipe, or airway of another person that prevents the intake of air.” The term does not include any hold involving contact with another person’s neck that is “not intended to prevent the intake of air.”

Additionally, “excessive use of force”  has been officially defined as a use of force that exceeds the degree of force permitted by law, policy, or the observing officer’s employing agency.

The Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission must establish use of force instruction standards for officers by July 1, 2023, and law enforcement agencies must develop policies for use of force investigations that involve the death or injury of any person.

To better keep track of police misconduct, applicants must disclose if they are the subject of an investigation by a local, state, or federal agency or entity for criminal, civil, or administrative wrongdoing. Applicants must also inform potential employers if they separated or resigned from a previous agency while under investigation.

According to the bill:

As part of the pre-employment background investigation of the applicant, a law enforcement or correctional agency must include the facts and reasons for any of the applicant’s previous separations from private or public employment or appointment, as the applicant understands them. Further, each employing agency must maintain an officer’s employment information for a minimum of five years following the date of an officer’s termination, resignation, or retirement.

Beginning July 1, 2022, each law enforcement agency must report quarterly to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement data regarding use of force by the law enforcement officers employed by the agency that results in serious bodily injury, death, or discharge of a firearm at a person, according to the bill.

The provisions of the bill will take effect on July 1, 2021.

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