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Florida's new police reform law leaves some wanting more

'We still don’t have internal organizations investigating the police,' activist Delilah Pierre says
Posted at 5:30 PM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 17:30:05-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's police reform package is now law. Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the bill his signature Tuesday evening.

Advocates called it a solid first step to combating racial injustice, but not everyone felt that way.

"To me, it feels like I'm supposed to be applauding for a meal of cotton candy when I was supposed to get supper," said Tallahassee activist Delilah Pierre.

Delilah Pierre, activist speaks on Florida's new police reform law
Delilah Pierre shares her thoughts on Florida's new police reform law.

Pierre was among the hundreds that flooded capital streets last year in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd. She urged lawmakers to pass comprehensive police reform to address unjust practices.

"I'm black. I'm transgender," Pierre said. "We are literally, very much under attack, not just from … everything. But, specifically, police brutality."

During this year's lawmaking session, it took weeks of negotiating between the GOP majority and the Legislative Black Caucus to create HB 7051. Lawmakers eventually gave it unanimous approval in the House and Senate. Its provisions include:

  • Limits on chokeholds
  • Better use of force training
  • Ending arrests of children seven and under, unless committing forcible felonies
  • Improved record-keeping to prevent the hiring of bad officers

Pierre said the new law wasn't nearly enough. She believed it fails to address root issues.

"We still don't have internal organizations investigating the police," Pierre said. "We still don't have people in seats of power that can hold and control the police."

State Rep. Fentrice Driskell
State Rep. Fentrice Driskell hopes the new law will produce more police reform in the years to come.

For those who worked on the policy, seeing it become law was a cause for celebration. State Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said the work paves the way for more reform in the future.

"What I've learned in my time in the Legislature, it's important to have that first step," she said. "It's important to have your foot in the door so that you can have these conversations and then have something to build on in future years."

Some lawmakers are already offering ideas. Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, said he would like to see more police accountability and transparency measures in future sessions.

"I think we have to look at qualified immunity," he said. "It's very difficult for police officers to be sued when there is misconduct. I think we have to look at body cameras. I still think the requirement is needed as a level of transparency."

Lawmakers return to Tallahassee in September for their first interim committee weeks. The 2022 legislative session begins in January.

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