TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — A top Republican senator is making sure that the second week of Florida’s legislative session is just as explosive as the first – taking SB 1086, a bill that would expand the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR) – flying through the Committee on Criminal Justice.
Senator Joe Gruters’ (R-Sarasota) legislation would prohibit disciplinary action against an officer if the investigation is not complete after 180 days, and would allow officers to sue their agency if they are not given written notice.
“This is a fairness issue,” Senator Gruters, a former chairman of the Republican Party, stated, highlighting the importance of integrity in investigations against police officers.
HARDER TO REMOVE “BAD APPLES”
Not all are in favor of this legislation, and its resulting expansion of the LEOBR.
Executive Director Rodney Jacobs of the Civilian Investigation Panel – a police oversight agency based in Miami – is deeply critical.
“This bill would make it almost impossible for police chiefs to remove and keep away who they believe to be bad apples in their ranks,” he tells The Florida Standard.
“There’s a lot of police chiefs in the state of Florida who want to do the right thing, but they’re unable to do so because of the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights,” Jacobs argues.
“It seems like this weird mental gymnastics of paying bad officers, and then allowing them to retain their jobs,” Jacobs, a former military intelligence officer, stated.
“NOTHING TO DO WITH CRIMINAL ACTIONS”
William Smith, President of the Florida Highway Patrol Chapter of the Florida PBA, disagreed, “This bill is only administrative. This has nothing to do with criminal actions. Bad officers need to go.” He told the Committee on Criminal Justice Monday afternoon, referencing the bill’s protection of officers from unfair investigations.
Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President John Kazanjian concurred with the legislation, explaining that the bill would “strengthen our rights and enhance our benefits”, allowing them to make their “presence felt in the halls of the Capitol.”
Despite outside controversy, the bill passed with bipartisan support, and will now head to the Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability.