(The Center Square) – In one year, over 530 police officers have relocated to Florida from 48 states and U.S. territories to take advantage of Florida’s Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Program.

On April 1 last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 3 into law, which included a wide range of law enforcement initiatives, including incentives to encourage both out-of-state residents and Floridians to join state and local law enforcement agencies. The recruitment program includes signing bonuses for every recruit, costs covered for training programs and relocation expenses, pay raises and $1,000 bonuses. It also created a Law Enforcement Academy Scholarship Program for children of law enforcement officers and adoption benefits for officers.

One year later, DeSantis announced that over 1,750 new recruits had joined Florida law enforcement agencies, each receiving $5,000 bonuses after taxes. Among them are 530 officers who relocated to Florida from other states and U.S. territories. Over 200 were from California, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania.

The total amount of bonuses awarded through the program is over $11.8 million.

“I’m proud to announce that more than 1,750 new law enforcement officers have received bonuses through the Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Program,” Gov. DeSantis said. “Florida is first in the nation in law enforcement recruitment because of our focus on back-the-blue initiatives that make our law enforcement officers feel supported by their communities. In Florida, we know the invaluable service that law enforcement professionals provide our communities, and we’ve got their backs.”

In the governor’s fiscal 2023-2024 budget, $30 million is allocated to continue funding the law enforcement recruitment bonus program, a $10 million increase from the previous budget. The governor also proposes $220 million be allocated for a First Responder Recognition payment program, a $95 million increase from the previous budget allocation. 

In November 2021, DeSantis first invited police officers to relocate to Florida, saying to those in “NYPD, Minneapolis, Seattle, if you’re not being treated well, we’ll treat you better here: you fill important needs for us, and we’ll compensate you as a result.”

Shortly after his invitation, at least 14 NYPD officers left New York City to join the Lakeland Police Department, located near Tampa. They cited DeSantis’ recruitment plan and a hostile work environment in a city whose leadership they said turned its back on police. By July 2022, Attorney General Ashley Moody touted the program, pointing to a new Lee County Sheriff’s Office recruit who relocated his entire family to Florida from Chicago.

By December 2022, the state had awarded over 600 bonuses through the program.

Newly relocated law enforcement officers may also be eligible for the Hometown Heroes Housing Program, which launched last June 1 with a $100 million budget. It provides frontline workers in more than 100 eligible professions with down payment and closing cost assistance to help purchase a primary residence in the communities where they work.

Those interested in applying to the Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Payment Program and Essential First Responder Recognition Payment Program can find more information online.

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