DeSantis Signs Bill Banning Civilian Investigations of Law Enforcement


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday signed a series of bills that have been passed by the Florida legislature, multiple of which pertain to law enforcement. One, HB 601, bans civilian police review boards from investigating complaints of officer misconduct in law enforcement.

The bill was passed by the Republican majority in both chambers of the legislature, with Democratic opposition falling short of blocking it in the House. Senate Democrats largely supported the bill. The boards in question have existed in major Florida cities such as Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale, providing recourse for private citizens with misconduct allegations against law enforcement officers.

Now, the new law outlines a process to create a civilian oversight board which is comprised of appointees by a county's sheriff, with the mandatory inclusion of at least one retired law enforcement officer. Existing boards are not inherently dissolved, but the scope of their authority has been reduced.

"By signing House Bill 601 Gov. DeSantis has undermined much of the hard work that so many communities across Florida have engaged in to increase trust between residents and local law enforcement," said Howard Simon, interim executive director of the ACLU of Florida. "There is still a great need for civilian oversight as one strategy to foster confidence and trust between the police and communities they serve"

"They can still meet, they can still talk about policy, procedure, training, culture, systemic issues," said state Representative Wyman Duggan, in comments reported by FloridaPolitics. "But what they cannot do is use them as a vehicle to persecute our officers, which to many of these organizations is the only utility that organization has." Duggan, a Jacksonville Republican, co-sponsored HB 601.

“I am proud to support the men and women of law enforcement throughout the state,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement. “Today’s legislation will ensure law enforcement can do their jobs without the threat of harassment. While blue states vilify and defund the police, Florida will continue to be the friendliest state in the nation towards our law enforcement community.”