New legislation could change Florida policing

Local News

PANAMA CITY, FLA (WMBB) — New legislation hit Gov. Ron DeSantis desk on Monday that could change how police operate. If the governor signs measure HB 7051, a measure passed after negotiations between House Republicans and Democrats, police would have new use-of-force requirements.

The new standards would limit chokeholds to circumstances where serious bodily harm or death is perceived as a threat. The legislation was passed by the House Republicans and Democrats following the killing of George Floyd last year. 

“The duty to intervene was something that came up from the George Floyd situation. Something that you know, I never thought we’d need to put in our policy but obviously after looking at that I felt it was reasonable for us to put that in policy.”

The legislation would also train officers to issue medical assistance following use of force. However, the potential signing of the bill would not change Bay County Sheriff’s Office’s policy, Sheriff Tommy Ford said.

“It doesn’t change anything with us because we’ve been doing that,” Ford said. “But I think it’s always wise to be responsive to questions the community has. And when issues come up, to be responsive to that.”

Ford mentioned that he viewed both potential changes as beneficial across the state, although it wouldn’t change Bay County Sheriff’s Office policy. 

Chokeholds have been banned in Ford’s office for at least 15 years, Ford said. The only instance when chokeholds are allowed is when imminent danger is present, as is allowed through measure HB 7051.

“Well I think you’ll find a lot of agencies that have that either in there policy already or in their practice,” Ford said. “There may be some agencies that still allow the lateral vascular neck restraint when it’s not a deadly force situation. So that may change that.”

If the measure is not signed by July 1, it would need to be passed by legislatures again, before potentially being signed by DeSantis.

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