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Florida Democrats Push For Police Reform After Nationwide Protest Against Police Brutality

Demonstrators march during a protest over the death of George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25.
John Raoux
Demonstrators march during a protest over the death of George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25.

Democrats in several states have used the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor to highlight the need for police reform. In Florida, lawmakers are working on legislation to do just that. One proposal would create a public database that tracks complaints against officers the other would end qualified immunity.

Rep. Geraldine Thompson (D-Windermere) wants to make it easier for the public to see complaints against law enforcement officers. In Florida, once an investigation of an officer is closed, it’s only available through a public records request. Thompson’s proposal would create a publicly accessible and searchable database of such cases. Her goal is to hold officers more accountable for their actions, along with the agencies that hire them.

“If you have excessive force challenges in one county, you should not be able to move to another county and become a law enforcement officer," said Thompson.

According to multiple news outlets, the Minnesota officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck had more than a dozen complaints of excessive force on file. Thompson believes that history should've been known.

"Had that been entered into a database that would’ve raised a red flag that this is someone who’s temperament, who’s personality, who’s training is really not fit for law enforcement," said Thompson.

She believes if a public database was in place, officers with repeated complaints would likely be removed.

Another issue is qualified immunity, which gives extra protection to government officials from civil lawsuits arising from actions done while they were on duty. And following the officer-involved deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami Gardens) wants to put an end to qualified immunity.

"Ending qualified immunity is not a new conversation that we're having just here in Florida," said Jones. "It's is something across the country that many state legislatures are moving toward."

At least three other states have modified their immunity laws following a summer of social justice protests. Jones wants to make Florida the next.

"This is really for the bad actors. You look at issues such as George Floyd’s case or you look at issues such as Breonna Taylor’s case you start going down the list of officers who have done things to violate individuals' constitutional rights," said Jones. "Those are the ones we are going after to make sure that they are not able to do these actions and be able to be shielded by this protection."

The fraternal order of police, a union representing officers, declined to comment on the bills saying it will wait until the proposals are heard in committee before offering an opinion.

Copyright 2021 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Blaise Gainey is a Multimedia Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.