DeSantis Signs Bill Targeting Police Boards, First Responder Harassment

DeSantis Signs Bill Targeting Police Boards, First Responder Harassment

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed measures that will prevent investigations of local law-enforcement officers by civilian review boards and prohibit “harassment” of first responders who are on duty. DeSantis said the review board measure (HB 601) will put the “kibosh” on certain communities that have stacked boards with activists.

“They’re not free to use law enforcement as political pinatas,” DeSantis said while at the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office in St. Augustine. “They’re not free to create false narratives. They’re not free just to make it miserable to work in uniform. And these things are highly political.”

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass added, “These men and women do not need to be scrutinized again and again by a committee that has no idea what they’re talking about.”

The bill passed during the legislative session that ended March 8.

Critics, such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, defended civilian review boards as providing transparency in police activities and building trust between communities and the law-enforcement agencies. The measure will affect at least 21 cities with civilian review boards. Cities including Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Fort Pierce, Gainesville, Key West, Kissimmee, Lakeland, Miami, Orlando, Pensacola, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Tampa and West Palm Beach have had such boards.

The bill will allow sheriffs to set up “civilian oversight” boards that would review policies and procedures of law-enforcement agencies. Each board would include three to seven members appointed by the sheriff. One of the members would have to be a retired law enforcement officer.

The measure will take effect July 1.

The other bill signed (SB 184) will make it a crime to “harass” law-enforcement officers, correctional probation officers, firefighters and emergency medical-care providers. The measure, which will take effect Jan. 1, creates a second-degree misdemeanor charge for people who get within 25 feet of first responders after being warned not to harass or interfere with their work.

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