Florida House to hear bipartisan bill raising hiring standards for police


  • Photo via AJ Colores/Unsplash

A bipartisan proposal that would expand hiring standards and bolster use-of-force training for police and correctional officers was quickly advanced to the House floor on Friday.

The House Appropriations Committee unanimously backed the proposal (HB 7051), which includes seeking to limit the use of chokeholds to circumstances when law-enforcement officers perceive immediate threats of serious bodily injury or death to themselves or other people. Also, the bill proposes policies that would require on-duty officers to —- based on the circumstances —- intervene when they witness other officers using or attempting to use excessive force.

The proposal emerged Thursday in the House Judiciary Committee and then moved to the Appropriations Committee on Friday. Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, called the proposal “great,” while saying he’d like to see more done.

“This is a compromise. And it's not one step forward. This is a number of steps forward,” Geller said. “It's been the product, I understand, of long discussion and long debate. I want to compliment those on both sides for doing the job we're sent up here to do, which is to legislate, to come up with something, to advance solutions, to try to reach agreement where we can.”

The proposal comes as police use of force has faced heavy scrutiny —- and spurred protests —- across the country during the past year. Supported by law-enforcement organizations, along with the groups such as the Florida State Conference of the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, the proposal would require people applying for law-enforcement positions to disclose if they are subject to pending investigations or if they left prior criminal justice jobs while under investigation.

Law enforcement and correctional agencies would also be required to maintain officers’ employment information for at least five years following termination, resignation or retirement.

“The goal of this part of the bill is to ensure that an officer that is fired for cause isn’t going to another agency,” bill sponsor Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, said.

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