Florida Senate moves quickly on bill focused on policing reforms

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A late-session push by the Florida House to require new training standards for police officers is ready to go to the Senate floor this week after unanimously passing the House.

The proposal (HB 7051), in part, would place restrictions on when police officers can use chokeholds and would require officers’ training to include “alternatives to use of force, including de-escalation techniques.”

The Senate  Rules Committee held a meeting Tuesday specifically to consider the bill, approving it in a 17-0 vote. Rules Chairwoman Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said the bill likely will be considered on the Senate floor Thursday, the next-to-last day of the legislative session.

The House voted 113-0 on Monday to pass the measure, sponsored by Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, and Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa.

The legislation is a response to the nationwide debate on policing practices after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer in May. Lawmakers said Tuesday the bill is a “starting point.”

“I think that it would be horrible if we didn’t have some type of legislation that’s coming to say, ‘Well, we recognize what’s going on in society … and we’re trying to address it,’” Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, said.

Thurston, who is Black, said he is “still concerned” when he thinks about potential interactions between police and his nearly 30-year-old son.

“This (bill) is something hopefully that’s going to benefit the community and save lives,” Thurston said. “We don’t want police encounters to be life-threatening situations.”

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