In a recent post on Jaxpolitics about the FOP’s call to close the public’s access to internal investigations, I referenced a bill (Senate Bill 624 by Fasano) that was before the Legislature that, among other things, would allow for police officers to corroborate their stories, i.e., get their stories straight, prior to investigation of incidents where two or more officers are involved. That bill passed the Legislature and is headed for the Governor for signature.
The bill wasn’t just an idea someone thought up. It wasn’t even meant to address a situation where a police officer was treated unfairly, but instead arose to address a real situation according to a St. Pete Times editorial that calls for the Governor to veto the legislation. According to that editorial, the bill was proposed in the wake of four Tampa police officers being fired or forced to resign in December after investigators using GPS technology found they had gone home or to other jobs during the time they were supposed to be on duty.
The bill also makes it easy for bad officers to avoid punishment by tying up the disciplinary process. Officers who feel unfairly treated by investigators could request an internal review. Then the games start. Officers could bounce an investigator off the case, delay the proceedings and effectively shop for lenient colleagues to rule on their case. This would gut the ability of internal affairs investigators to do their jobs and make internal affairs a dead-end career move.
Police chiefs and sheriffs understand that their ability to self-police the ranks is the only defense against any public call for citizen review panels. This legislation would move Florida away from the great strides it has taken in professionalizing the police forces. No wonder, then, that the Florida Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Associations object to the bill. “This is a bad law that helps bad cops,” Tampa police Chief Stephen Hogue wrote the governor last week.
Not one of Jacksonville’s legislative representatives voted against this bill, which should give you a good indication of where their priorities lie – looking for support for reelection in 2010. If the Governor doesn’t veto this bill (as has been requested by numerous parties), look for Jaxpolitics to begin a very public crusade for a citizens review board here in Jacksonville.
Read the entire St. Pete Times editorial here.