Florida

Florida bill would put an end to citizen review boards

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Local governments would be blocked from establishing citizen review boards to oversee alleged misconduct of law enforcement under a new bill filed by a Jacksonville lawmaker.

Under Florida law, citizen review boards cannot impose penalties on law enforcement.

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However, the 21 current boards across the state can make policy recommendations to law enforcement agencies and conduct administrative investigations into the handling of alleged police misconduct.

State Representative Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) explained Orlando’s citizen review board helps instill trust between law enforcement and the public.

“Though citizen review boards don’t necessarily have a lot of teeth in Florida, it is a space for community dialogue, for conversation and for trust building,” said Eskamani.

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But a newly filed bill brought by State Representative Wyman Duggan (R-Jacksonville) would put an end to local citizen review boards altogether in Florida.

Duggan argued there is no uniformity between the existing patchwork of citizen review boards in Florida and there are already multiple layers of accountability to ensure law enforcement officials behave properly.

“You’ve got the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, you’ve got the Attorney General, you’ve got the Department of Justice, you’ve got the US Attorney. All of those agencies have independent oversight and investigative authority, but they have clear standards. They have uniforms standards,” said Duggan.

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State Representative Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville), who supports the establishment of a local citizen review board in Duval County, argued the bill would prevent local residents from having their voices heard.

“Law enforcement shouldn’t have anything to hide if their doing their jobs correctly and so there’s no reason we shouldn’t have these review boards in the first place,” said Nixon.

But Randy Reaves, President of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 530, said he fears citizen review boards could be used to promote misleading narratives about police involved incidents that erode public trust, rather than strengthen it.

“These citizen review boards get politically hijacked. They’re not based on facts, and we’ve seen that around the nation. So this bill right here eliminates that in the State of Florida,” said Reaves.

Representative Duggan said he anticipates a Senate companion bill to be filed soon.

The 2024 legislative session officially gets underway in January.

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