State senator calls for special session on police reform: ‘Innocent lives may be lost while we wait’

Orlando Democratic state Sen. Randolph Bracy was among a group of senators who objected to Gov. Ron DeSantis' comments about farm workers. Credit: Colin Hackley

Amid heightened tension over police brutality, a state lawmaker has proposed calling the Florida Legislature into special session to consider needed reforms, including requiring officers to wear body cameras to installing vehicle dash cameras and guaranteeing public access to those recordings.

Orlando State Sen. Randolph Bracy presented those proposals and more during a news conference Friday and also suggested that local police departments should no longer investigate shootings by their officers.

“Police shootings should be investigated by an independent agency and not by local police. There are too many conflicts of interest when police investigate their own officers. This erodes the public trust,” Bracy said.

Bracy, a Democrat representing part of Orange County, proposed the special session in a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“The need for police accountability has never been more apparent or more visceral than now. Most people are starting to realize that George Floyd is not an incident but rather the everyday lived reality of black people in our country,” he wrote.

“Police brutality and overaggressive policing will only deepen the mistrust between the black community and police if we do not proactively take steps toward enacting meaningful reform.”

Bracy said during his news conference that he’s compiled a total of 10 proposals for the Legislature to consider.

“I and many others have worked on these proposals for years. But they have been largely ignored,” he said. “I believe innocent lives may be lost while we wait.”

He also sent letters urging Florida House Speaker José Oliva, Senate President Bill Galvano, and the Democratic Black Caucus to support a special session, Bracy added.

DeSantis has authority to call the state Legislature into special session, and so do the House speaker and Senate president through a joint proclamation.

“President Galvano is reviewing the letter he received from Sen. Bracy,” Katie Betta, spokeswoman for Galvano, told the Florida Phoenix via email.

Florida House spokesman Fred Piccolo hasn’t responded to a request for comment from the Phoenix.

Other solutions Bracy mentioned include increasing jury pay; ensuring diversity on jury panels; mandated officer training on “implicit bias and de-escalation;” publish annual data on an “analysis on racial disparity;” and inclusion of a “civilian review board member” on an investigative team.

He acknowledged that DeSantis had empathized with the outrage over the killing of George Floyd, but argued that the governor hasn’t offered “any proactive solutions.”

“It has been heartbreaking to deal with another murder of an African American for all of America to see. But it has brought renewed attention and energy towards the issue of police reform,” Bracy said.

“It’s time to pivot towards legislative solutions so that we can see meaningful change in our criminal justice system.”