FLORIDA — In the wake of this year's mass protests over police practices, Florida's Republican leaders are embracing a decidedly pro-law enforcement agenda, including support for a new training program to help officers identify and address post-traumatic stress associated with their jobs.
What You Need To Know
- "Resiliency Behind the Badge" training program would address police officers' PTSD
- The program enjoys bipartisan support
- Democratic state lawmakers, though, also want to see more accountability for police
The program, "Resiliency Behind the Badge," has been developed by the Florida Sheriffs Association and Florida State University's Institute for Justice Research and Development, and this month earned an endorsement from House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor).
"Whether it's a traffic stop or whether it's responding to a shots fired call, they can be equally dangerous situations for our police officers, and the stress that that puts on them and puts on their families can be seen when you interact with them and talk with them and learn about their service," Sprowls said during a virtual press conference.
The program could prove particularly beneficial for law enforcement officers involved in securing and dispersing protests that have galvanized outrage over what organizers argue is systemic police discrimination.
But while it enjoys bipartisan support, its introduction comes amid a drive by Gov. Ron DeSantis to pass legislation that would increase criminal penalties for protesters who damage property, obstruct roads and topple monuments. The measure would also sever state funding for local governments that reduce spending on law enforcement.
First Amendment rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have derided the Republican governor's initiative as an unconstitutional attempt to silence the voices of Floridians who disagree with his worldview.
Moreover, many Democrats in the Florida House are pushing for a different kind of reform: holding law enforcement officers more accountable, in part by allowing citizens to monitor officers' personnel files.
The goal, according to Rep. Dianne Hart (D-Tampa), is, "to be able to track folk anywhere you go — when I put that officer's name in, his jacket pops up. I know that 18 times, you've violated somebody's rights."