The following is a transcript of an interview with U.S. Representative Val Demings of Florida, broadcast Sunday, May 29, 2022, on “Face the Nation.” The full transcript of the interview can be found below.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We now go to Orlando, Florida and Democratic Congressman Val Demings. Before serving in Congress, she was the Orlando Police Chief. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.
REPRESENTATIVE VAL DEMINGS: It’s great to be with you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: As a former police chief, what is the one piece of legislation that you think would be most effective right now?
REP. DEMINGS: Well, Margaret, look, 27 years in the police force, serving as chief of police, our primary responsibility was the safety of the people we served. And I believe we have a direct obligation – I’m not sure, millions of Americans across the country – can’t get the faces of those survivors out of the classroom in Uvalde. We have an immediate obligation to move forward to ensure they are safe. I believe now, as the United States Senate, because the House has done its job, I believe now, if the Senate were to look at passing the background check bill, and red flags as well. Here in Florida, we have nearly 6,000 cases where red flag laws have made a difference, at least according to law enforcement and other people involved in those cases. And we have a direct obligation to do what we can when we can. And I believe these are two pieces of legislation that have overwhelming public support. We can do it if the Senate has the political will to do it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think more federal money is needed to strengthen safety in schools? The White House says they’ve already helped pump about $10 billion into states for public safety.
REP. DEMINGS: I think we should also look at school safety every day. I think there should always be a review. Because technology has changed, we have to use the best, the most advanced technology. But Margaret, our children are not at school 24 hours a day. So let’s make sure our schools are safe. Let’s make sure we try to eliminate the human error factor. But what about churches? What about synagogues? What about supermarkets? What about movie theaters? We must ensure that weapons are kept out of the hands of dangerous people. The Senate can also take action on this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m going to ask you about this reaction in Texas, because in addition to the shooter, there is now an investigation into what the police did with their reaction that day. You know, after the Parkland massacre, the school official assigned to protect those kids was later charged with criminal negligence because of his inaction. Given what we’ve learned about what happened in Texas, should we expect the same there?
REP. DEMINGS: Well, what we must demand is a thorough and complete investigation. Margaret, I was a law enforcement officer for Columbine. I served as a law enforcement officer after Columbine. Pre-Columbine, we’d respond to an active shooting situation, we’d secure the perimeter, and then we’d wait for the crisis negotiators and the SWAT team. I have worked as a crisis negotiator for 12 years. We all know that after Columbine there is no time to lose, the officers on that scene are expected to be in those active shooting situations. We have trained on it with the Orlando Police Department and every sworn member, including the Police Chief, has undergone active shooting training. That clearly did not happen. The other important thing, those first minutes after the shooting, we know there’s a demand for more and more information, but the information we’re giving, especially when we say that an SRO, a school resource officer, went in and basically hired a suspect and ammunition or or bullets have been fired, and that’s not true, the communication, we need to make sure it’s as clear and accurate as possible. So there is a lot of work to be done there. We certainly have more questions than answers, and I know we’re going to get to the bottom of it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Should there be some sort of federal investigation or some sort of school shooting safety board at the federal level, or is this all up to the Texas State Police?
REP. DEMINGS: Well, what we do know is that multiple agencies were involved. Personally, I think the wrong agency was in charge of that scene. But let me say this, I wasn’t there on the floor. I know that police officers have a tough job in these active shooting situations, as we have seen time and time again. They are usually unsuccessful. We know that. But we must, Margaret, demand an investigation and I believe the FBI, I mean, that would be my vote for a federal investigation. But since so many agencies were involved, I believe it’s important that we know what role each agency played. It is important that we know, was there any discussion about going in, those 19 offices that we were told were in the hallway, was there any discussion among other commanders from other departments? We need to know the answers to those questions. And I think a federal investigation is definitely in order.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Let me quickly ask if you are happy with the scope of President Biden’s executive order on police reform this week?
REP. DEMINGS: Well, I certainly think it’s the duty to step in and watch, we know that police departments come in different sizes, some with 35,000, some as small as 10 or six. And so the level of education they get is different, but the duty to intervene, as the de-escalation training is included in the use of force, to ensure that the public is aware of criminal – or not criminal – but misbehavior may have fallen criminally in some cases. I think all those things are a good start. But Margaret, that’s all they are. I also think we need to look at training across the board with law enforcement, and let’s standardize training so that the small agencies have the benefit of good training, just like the bigger agencies,
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Demings. Thank you so much for your time. We will be right back.