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Policy expert believes major police reform will be difficult in Florida's next legislative session

'I think they would have an appetite for discussion'
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Posted at 11:57 AM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 11:57:00-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As the president announced his version of police reforms Tuesday, spurred by the death of George Floyd, Florida lawmakers continue to prepare their reform ideas for the upcoming legislative session next March.

After weeks of protests, state Democrats have started churning out a list of ideas to combat police brutality and racial injustice.

"I will never fully understand the plight of black Americans, but I know that everyone has to contribute to this solution," said state Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa.

Cruz, alongside Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa, is working on bills to ban chokeholds, strangleholds and teach more de-escalation methods. The two also want more citizen review boards to investigate excessive force.

Sen. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, has joined them. He is pushing for a database to track and prevent the hiring of police with a history of excessive misconduct.

"It is our place as legislators to act and address the systemic shortcomings of policing in our country," Cruz said.

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Florida policy expert Ed Moore thinks lawmakers will need to manage expectations, however. He spent years analyzing bills in the statehouse and said big reforms rarely comes quickly. Not to mention, Democrats are the minority in both chambers, needing the support of law and order Republicans to pass bills.

"It's a forward-thinking legislature in what's best for the state," Moore said. "I think they would have an appetite for discussion. Whether they'd have an appetite to eat the full meal, I don't know."

It'll depend on a few key elements, Moore believed:

  • How politicians fair in the upcoming election
  • If the political pressure still exists next March
  • And whether local municipalities implement reforms on their own

"They may take a lot of issues off the table," Moore said. "By the time the legislature comes back, a lot of the things some people might be seeking might already be done."

One more factor to consider: incoming Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson is reportedly saying he can't foresee any legislative reforms happening without the backing of law enforcement.

Florida's 2021 legislative session is set to begin March 2 and lasts through April 30.