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Florida governor “allowed” officers to abuse their power: DeSantis signed a bill that many see as unconstitutional


Florida – Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill last week in Florida aimed at safeguarding first responders by setting strict boundaries between them and the public during their duties. This move, while intended to protect law enforcement officials, has sparked significant concerns regarding the implications for civil liberties.

New Law to Shield First Responders

During a ceremony at the St. Johns Sheriff’s Office in St. Augustine, Governor DeSantis expressed his gratitude towards police officers for their continued service and introduced legislation that creates a mandatory distance between the public and first responders. Senate Bill 184, the more contentious of the two, now requires civilians to maintain a distance of at least 25 feet from any first responder actively engaged in their duty.

This new rule applies when first responders, including firefighters, EMTs, and police officers, are performing critical tasks such as rendering aid, conducting traffic stops, or making arrests.

Governor DeSantis emphasized the necessity of the law, stating, “You shouldn’t be in a situation where you’re at a traffic stop, you’re responding to a call or someone in distress; then you have people trying to interdict or try to harass you from performing your duty. If you do that, we view that as a problem and now you’re going to be held accountable.”

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Violators of this law face severe penalties, including fines up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.

Criticism and Constitutional Concerns

The enactment of SB 184 has not been without criticism. Opponents argue that it could hinder the public’s ability to hold law enforcement accountable, particularly in instances of misuse of power. Critics fear that the law will impede bystanders from filming police activities—a method that has proven instrumental in recent years for ensuring police accountability.

The First Amendment Foundation has been vocal about their concerns, labeling the law as potentially unconstitutional. They worry that it restricts citizen journalists and could prevent the documentation of police misconduct. In a statement, they urged Floridians to express their disapproval to the governor’s office, drawing parallels to a similar law in Arizona that was blocked following challenges by the ACLU and media organizations.

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The foundation explained, “While Senate Bill 184 doesn’t have a specific provision against filming first responders while working, we find the law is highly discretionary and would enable responders to order reporters and citizens with smartphones to stop video or audio recording, or simply observing, in violation of their constitutional rights.”

Legislative Support and Opposition

The bill garnered nearly unanimous support in the Florida Senate, with only Senator Bobby Powell of Palm Beach County voting against it. In the House, however, 27 Democrats opposed the bill, reflecting a divide in opinions about the balance between protecting first responders and preserving public oversight and freedoms.

As this new law takes effect, it places Florida at the heart of a national debate over the rights of first responders versus the civil liberties of the public. This legislation marks a significant shift in how interactions between law enforcement and civilians are regulated, potentially setting a precedent for other states to follow.

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Governor DeSantis stands by the decision, asserting that this law is crucial for the safety and respect of law enforcement personnel. However, the dialogue surrounding these changes suggests that the debate is far from over, with significant implications for both safety and freedom in the Sunshine State.

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