wjxt logo

Florida governor signs police use-of-force bill

Photo does not have a caption

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After a year of intense scrutiny of policing, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed into law a bill that includes new use-of-force training requirements for officers.

The measure (HB 7051), which DeSantis formally received Monday, moved swiftly through the Legislature at the end of this spring’s session after negotiations on the measure by House Republicans and Democrats.

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

It came after scrutiny of policing that followed the death last year of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin, who was captured on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck, was found guilty by a jury of murdering Floyd and sentenced to prison.

New standards aimed at limiting officers’ use of chokeholds are included in the legislation. Chokeholds will be limited “to circumstances where the officer perceives an immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death to himself, herself, or another person.”

Training also will instruct officers on a “duty to intervene in another officer’s excessive use of force,” and a “duty to render medical assistance following use of force.”

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.

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

In addition, officers applying for a new job must disclose if they left the previous job under a cloud, and that previous agency has to be truthful when it’s contacted about a background check.

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

Adkinson, who testified for the legislation, called it 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,” Adkinson said.

The legislation also bans the arrest of anyone under age 7 unless the violation is a forcible felony.

About the Authors: