TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A bill has been introduced that could potentially bring about significant changes in the way local law enforcement investigations are conducted. Senate Bill 576 argues that review boards are divisive and merely second guess the actions of the police. If passed, this bill would effectively prohibit all police review boards responsible for investigating law enforcement agencies across the entire state. The bill was filed by state Senator Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill.
Calia Coleman, who formerly served as the chairwoman of the Orlando citizens police review board, strongly opposes the bill. In her opinion, doing away with these review boards would result in a serious problem where the citizens would no longer trust the police, as there would be no mechanism in place to hold them accountable or to shed light on their activities. Coleman emphasized the importance of these review boards, stating, “For me, it was an interesting way to serve my community outside of being an attorney to see what I can kind of do to bridge the gap between police officers and the citizens.”
Coleman further explained the role of the review boards, stating that they did not possess the power to punish police officers; rather, their main responsibility was to review incidents and provide their opinions to internal affairs or internal investigations. This was particularly relevant during 2020 when the nation witnessed widespread protests and riots, including those in downtown Orlando following the tragic killing of George Floyd. The events of that year only served to amplify the review board’s voice regarding police accountability and transparency.
Coleman highlighted the significant contribution made by the review board in ensuring that every police officer was equipped with a body camera. This measure played a crucial role in enhancing accountability and transparency within the police force. Former Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon also expressed his opposition to an outright ban on review boards, stating, “I think it’s very important to have that component in place.” Rolon has been a supporter of the Orlando citizens police review board since 1992. He suggested that instead of a ban, it would be more appropriate to establish a structured framework that allows all review boards to operate under the same guidelines.
News 6 reached out to Senator Ingoglia’s office for comment, but he was unavailable for an interview. The Senate bill has successfully passed its first of three committees. News 6 also sought the perspective of various jurisdictions across Central Florida regarding this bill. The City of Orlando responded by stating, “As a city, we believe that local governments know best how to meet the needs of our communities, residents, and businesses.” They expressed their general opposition to bills that seek to preempt local government efforts. The City of Sanford, on the other hand, explained that they no longer have a citizen’s review board, as they have adopted alternative methods of receiving public input on a wider range of topics.
The debate surrounding this bill centers on the fundamental issue of local decision-making and citizen oversight of government agencies. While some cities have found success with review boards, others have chosen alternative approaches. The argument put forth by opponents of the bill is that the state should respect and allow each community to determine what works best for them. The bill’s impact, if enacted, would affect only 21 cities with review boards, according to the Senate staff analysis. The discussion will continue as the proposed bill progresses through the legislative process.
In conclusion, the bill introduced in Florida’s Senate, if passed, could have far-reaching consequences for the way local law enforcement investigations are conducted. The opposing viewpoints emphasize the importance of police review boards in ensuring accountability and transparency within the police force, while also highlighting the need for a structured framework that allows all review boards to operate under the same guidelines. The ongoing debate raises questions about the role of local decision-making and citizen oversight in government agencies. As the bill moves forward through the legislative process, its potential impact on the affected cities will continue to be scrutinized.