Right now, there’s a lot of talk in Washington about police reform. I am 100% behind police reform that improves community safety, protects our brave law enforcement officers and better serves our families.
But, needed changes in law enforcement won’t come from the Democrats’ radical proposals like defunding the police. Undercutting our men and women in uniform has devastating and dangerous consequences. We’ve seen cities and police agencies across our nation retreat from effective policing and, as a result, violent crime is spiking.
We can’t weaken law enforcement’s ability to effectively prevent and fight crime.
The villainizing of our men and women in uniform we’ve seen from Democrats in Washington and across America has consequences. When I was governor of Florida, we lost 51 law enforcement officers in the line of duty. Every one of them is a hero. The Democrats’ attack on our police is a disgusting insult to these heroes and all who honorably wear the uniform, and I won’t stand for it.
I sincerely appreciate the good work my colleague and friend, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., has done to advance the cause of pragmatic police reform in this country. I’ll continue to work with him and anyone else in Washington who wants to have a real conversation about finding solutions that create safer communities in Florida and across our nation.
I’m also talking to our law enforcement leaders across Florida. What I hear in these conversations is real concern that the jumble of police reform proposals being thrown at the wall right now won’t solve the one thing that will truly spark and secure lasting change to improve policing: changing police culture in the agencies that need it.
Arguably, the most discussed piece of the police reform conversation is qualified immunity. There are those who think law enforcement officers are immune from lawsuits because of “qualified immunity.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Those who advocate for taking away qualified immunity from officers are simply saying, “hit them in the pocketbook; that will make them change.” We know that’s wrong.
Police officers should be held accountable for wrongdoing and there is a process in place to do that through existing federal and state laws. But broadly punishing cities, small towns and counties with more multimillion-dollar lawsuits won’t change police culture, it will just bankrupt our local governments. Getting rid of qualified immunity doesn’t solve the root of the problem: problematic police culture within a few mismanaged agencies.
If we want real, sustained and effective police reform that changes agency culture, we need to realize that it won’t come from more lawsuits or transferring liability from officers to their agencies. Creating meaningful change requires accountability.
If we want real, professional police reform, we have to do it the right way.