U.S. Sen. Rubio criticizes Val Demings’ vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021

By: - June 15, 2022 2:10 pm

Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook was one of many law enforcement officers endorsing Sen. Marco Rubio in the U.S, Senate race in a new video on June 14, 2022. Credit: Screenshot/YouTube

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has released a campaign video criticizing opponent Val Demings’ vote in the U.S. House on a law enforcement bill following George Floyd’s death.

The Rubio video came a day after U.S. Rep. Demings, a Democrat, released her first TV campaign touting her lengthy law enforcement career. Demings made history as Orlando’s first female police chief in 2007.

Both candidates in the U.S. Senate race continue to shed light on law enforcement that voters will likely care about as the nation roils over gun violence and the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York.

Rubio, who is seeking a third term in the U.S. Senate, featured Florida sheriffs from across the state and leaders from the Florida Police Benevolent Association in his new video released Tuesday.

The police group and sheriffs in Rubio’s video focused on Demings’ voting record on a particular issue about qualified immunity for officers.

The video begins with Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook saying, “I’m really disappointed in Val Demings’ position on law enforcement, especially qualified immunity.”

Another sheriff, Gordon Smith of Bradford County, said: “Look at her voting record. It doesn’t matter who she says she was or what she did in the past, because apparently, it’s obvious she’s forgotten about that.”

Also: “Val Demings – shame on her,” Florida PBA President John Kazanjian said in the video, adding that Demings “voted to take our qualified immunity away.”

In an email Wednesday from Rubio’s campaign spokeswoman, Elizabeth Gregory said that the bill referenced in the video is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, H.R. 1280.

Voting records from the U.S. House show that Demings, among many House Democrats, voted in favor of the bill in early March 2021, but the U.S. Senate did not pursue the legislation.

Here’s the summary of the U.S. House legislation, H.R. 1280:

“This bill addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices and law enforcement accountability. It increases accountability for law enforcement misconduct, restricts the use of certain policing practices, enhances transparency and data collection, and establishes best practices and training requirements.

“The bill enhances existing enforcement mechanisms to remedy violations by law enforcement. Among other things, it does the following:

  • lowers the criminal intent standard—from willful to knowing or reckless—to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution,
  • limits qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer, and
  • grants administrative subpoena power to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in pattern-or-practice investigations.

“It establishes a framework to prevent and remedy racial profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels. It also limits the unnecessary use of force and restricts the use of no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and carotid holds.

“The bill creates a national registry—the National Police Misconduct Registry—to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct. It also establishes new reporting requirements, including on the use of force, officer misconduct, and routine policing practices (e.g., stops and searches).

“Finally, it directs DOJ to create uniform accreditation standards for law enforcement agencies and requires law enforcement officers to complete training on racial profiling, implicit bias, and the duty to intervene when another officer uses excessive force.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “The doctrine of qualified immunity protects state and local officials, including law enforcement officers, from individual liability unless the official violated a clearly established constitutional right.”

George Floyd, a Black man, was murdered in May of 2020 by a Minneapolis police officer, sparking protests across the nation. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted and sent to prison.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.