Florida Enacts Bills Restricting Police Oversight and Harassment Laws

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed two bills aimed at changing how police oversight and harassment laws are handled.

One of the bills, SB 184, makes it a crime to interfere with a police officer or first responder while they are performing their duties.

This includes impeding or threatening them within 25 feet after being warned not to approach. The bill also defines “harassment” as intentionally causing emotional distress to a first responder without a legitimate reason.

Critics of the bill raised concerns about its vague language, which could potentially lead to the arrest of civilians recording police activity. However, Governor DeSantis emphasized that the intention is to hold people accountable for harassing law enforcement officers.

The second bill, HB 601, restricts civilian police review boards from conducting their own investigations into officer misconduct complaints.

Instead, these boards must have members appointed by local law enforcement authorities. While these boards can still discuss policy and training issues, they cannot investigate specific complaints against officers.

Florida Enacts Bills Restricting Police Oversight and Harassment Laws

Representative Wyman Duggan, who sponsored HB 601, clarified that the bill does not eliminate review boards entirely. They can still address broader issues but cannot use their authority to target individual officers.

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These bills received support mostly from Republicans and opposition from Democrats in the House. However, they passed with nearly unanimous support in the Senate, with only one Democrat voting against SB 184, the police harassment protection bill.

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