(The Center Square) – Since Gov. Ron DeSantis launched a new Florida Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Program, more out-of-state officers have relocated to Florida and joined local police departments and sheriff’s offices. On Monday, the governor announced the state has awarded over 600 bonuses through the program to new recruits.
The first-of-its-kind program was included in a sweeping law enforcement bill the legislature passed in March and the governor signed into law April 1. It went into effect July 1.
Among other things, the $20 million program provides a one-time bonus payment of $5,000, after taxes, to every newly employed officer. So far, a majority of the bonuses awarded have been issued to recruits, the governor’s office says, with the remaining checks expected to be paid by the end of the week.
“Law enforcement officers are choosing Florida because we have delivered on our promise to back the men and women who keep Florida families safe, and that message has been heard loud and clear across the nation,” DeSantis said. “We are proud to welcome law enforcement officers from across the nation to Florida and are grateful for the Floridians who have chosen this important vocation.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, the governor hand delivered bonus checks to six new recruits in Lee County and met with Cape Coral Police Department officers. The new officers who received the bonuses had been sworn in prior to the hurricane hitting and quickly jumped into action to serve the local community during response and recovery efforts, DeSantis noted. The majority were from out of state. Two relocated from New York, one relocated from Maryland, one relocated from Georgia, and two were new to the profession.
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. In July, 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.
The $5,000 bonuses were in addition to bonuses law enforcement officers received in Florida earlier this year. For the second year in a row, DeSantis authorized $1,000 bonuses for local government first responders, including police officers, sheriff’s deputies, paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters statewide. The bonuses were made possible through the 2022–2023 General Appropriations Act, which allocated $125 million for the Florida Essential First Responders Recognition Program.
Law enforcement officers may also be eligible for the Hometown Heroes Housing Program, which launched 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 here.