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Rep. John Rutherford Denounces Police Reform Bill at Jacksonville Roundtable

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News4Jax
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U.S. Rep. John Rutherford speaks at the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office.

Area Congressman John Rutherford (R-04) met with sheriffs from across Northeast Florida at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Thursday to discuss federal legislation he says would harm local law enforcement. 

Joined by sheriffs from Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties, Rutherford said the federal George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would hurt police officers’ ability to do their jobs. 

“We want the federal government to assist, but we don't want you coming down and mandating things across the board, because law enforcement is a state and local event,” Rutherford, who is a former Jacksonville sheriff, said.

The legislation passed the House in March, where Rutherford voted against it, and has since been stalled in the Senate. It would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, the police practices that led to the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, respectively. 

It would also end qualified immunity for officers and create a national database of police misconduct.

Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook said the bill would put the federal government in the middle of law enforcement's relationships with the communities it serves. “Every community, for every agency I’ve worked for, has defined their level of expectation for what kind of service they want. That’s local community policing,” she said. 

Related: Gov. DeSantis Proposes $5,000 Bonuses To Recruit New Law Enforcement Officers

Cook also argued against citizen review boards, a concept often supported by progressive groups and police reformers, where citizens examine instances of police misconduct to determine the appropriate consequences. 

“What you don’t want when you're looking at critical incidents is emotions and political agendas,” Cook said. “You want facts and evidence. And so that has to be left to the professionals, who have education and experience looking at fact and evidence.” 

Rutherford serves on the House Homeland Security Committee, where the Republicans - who are in the minority in the U.S. House - have formed an American Security Task Force to study border security, cybersecurity, and policing. The ranking member, Rep. John Katko (R-NY), who joined Rutherford at Thursday’s roundtable, appointed Rutherford to head the policing group. 

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.