Central Florida lawmakers support, push back on police reform bill

Central Florida Democrats are backing a federal police reform bill, while some area Republicans say they don’t like portions of the legislation.

The "Justice in Policing Act" would change the use-of-force standards to ban chokeholds, ban "no-knock" warrants, tighten requirements for officers to wear body cameras, and create a national police misconduct registry to track officer violations, among other things.

Orlando Democrats Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy are both backing the bill.

“To be clear, the overwhelming number of men and women in law enforcement are good, decent people who are a blessing to our nation. I have personally served with many of them. However, we desperately need additional changes to hold bad cops accountable."

Rep. Demings said the legislation combines decades of work by the Congressional Black Caucus and the House Judiciary Committee "to give America’s police departments the guidance, support, and accountability needed to protect and serve every American equally, regardless of their race.”

She said some portions of the bill need additional work.

“l look forward to providing my assistance in those areas, and I’m glad that some of its proposals — for example on the federal reporting of officer misconduct — have already been scheduled to go into effect. Our goal is to attract the best to the profession, and we must ensure legislative efforts do not prevent America’s finest sons and daughters from seeking a career in law enforcement.”

Central Florida Republicans, like Rep. Michael Waltz, agree with parts of the bill.

“Banning chokeholds, I think we can get together on. Ensuring officers with issues and records can’t move from state to state, or department to department, I think are things we could come together on,” he said.

However, he does not agree with the mandate to limit the transfer of military equipment to state and local law enforcement and changing qualified immunity for officers.

“If a police officer acts outside of the rules or outside of the law, they don’t have qualified immunity. What we can’t have though is taking it away from officers that are doing the right thing, protecting the community, and doing it within the rules and regulations and within the law,” said Waltz.

Waltz criticized Democrats for introducing the bill without including Republicans. Republicans are working on their own police reform bill. The U.S. House will vote on the "Justice in Policing Act" later this month.