By The News Service of Florida
Local law-enforcement review boards could be filled with appointees of sheriffs or police chiefs under a bill that was revised Tuesday by the Senate Community Affairs Committee.
The bill (SB 576), sponsored by Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, initially sought to do away with existing civilian police-review boards and bar counties and cities from creating panels to delve into complaints of wrongdoing. But under the revised version, approved in a 5-2 vote by the Republican-controlled committee, civilian oversight boards could be set up by county sheriffs or municipal police chiefs. The new boards could include three to seven members who would be appointed by sheriffs or police chiefs.
Ingoglia said the change would keep “community involvement” about policies and procedures that agencies must follow, “not necessarily any particular investigation.” Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Sunny Isles Beach Democrat who voted for the bill, said panels were created by local officials to “placate” the public, “not advance anything constructive.”
But Jackson Oberlink, a lobbyist for the group Florida Rising, said the proposal “corrodes” the trust that review boards created between communities and police forces by further alienating the public from departments.
According to a legislative staff analysis, 21 Florida cities have citizen review boards that would be affected by the bill. The cities are Bradenton, Daytona Beach, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Fort Pierce, Gainesville, Key West, Kissimmee, Lakeland, Miami, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Ocoee, Orlando, Pensacola, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Tampa, West Palm Beach and Winter Haven.
Ingoglia argued local panels are made up of “political appointees” without law-enforcement backgrounds who “second guess” police procedures. The House version of the bill (HB 601), which calls for the elimination of citizen review boards, is scheduled to go before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The bill has already gotten through two committees.