Governor DeSantis Enacts New Laws to Protect Police Officers and First Responders

St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick and his department recently welcomed Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative officials to sign Senate Bill 184 (SB 184) and House Bill 601 (HB 601) into law.

According to legislative records, SB 184 forbids harassment of police officers or first responders while they are actively conducting their duties.

“This law pertains to any person who has received a verbal warning not to approach an officer and who approaches with the intent to interfere with their official duties, threaten with physical harm, or harass the officer,” the officials stated.

Those in breach of the law will face a second-degree misdemeanor.

House Bill 601 prohibits anti-police activists from conducting extrajudicial investigations of law enforcement.

Governor DeSantis Enacts New Laws to Protect Police Officers and First Responders

In addition, HB 601 establishes civilian monitoring boards. According to the statute, these boards must be presided over by a county sheriff or chief of police and will be made up of three to seven members nominated by the sheriff or head of police, with at least one retired law enforcement officer.

The new law “ensures that misconduct allegations will be investigated by those properly trained and equipped to handle such investigations, such as Internal Affairs Departments or the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission,” according to a press release announcing the agreement.

The bill also increases county sheriffs’ base salary by $5,000 each population category.

“The signing of Senate Bill 184 simply puts the exclamation point behind what ‘Back the Blue’ truly means in the State of Florida,” Hardwick said in an e-mail.

Hardwick noted that because law enforcement personnel “never know” what to expect when responding to a service call, the rules create limits, or a “protective” area, allowing officers to do their jobs upon arrival.

Hardwick thanked DeSantis and praised Florida as the most police enforcement-friendly state in the country.

Governor DeSantis Enacts New Laws to Protect Police Officers and First Responders

“We’re blessed in St. Johns County to have this partnership and relationship with our community that stands behind the blue, just like you governor,” he told the crowd. “That being said, this simply gives us the law and latitude to enforce if someone doesn’t want to listen and doesn’t want to pay attention as we continue to do our jobs.”

Mark Glass, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who was also in attendance, emphasized that the legislation protects law enforcement personnel’ rights while also keeping them safe on the job.

During the signing ceremony, DeSantis reaffirmed Hardwick’s numbers, citing St. Johns County’s 42% growth over the last decade.

“That shows that people vote with their feet,” DeSantis stated. “They look to St. Johns County as high quality and a part of that is good law enforcement working hard to keep everyone safe.”

HB 601 will take effect on July 1. SB 184 will take effect on January 1.

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