(The Center Square) – One year after Gov. Ron DeSantis launched Florida’s Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Program, the state has awarded over 1,750 bonuses to newly employed law enforcement recruits. At least 530 of them relocated from out of state, with 200 coming from New York, California, Texas and Pennsylvania.
Several recruits shared why they relocated to Florida in a joint statement released by the governor’s office. Many expressing gratitude are former NYPD officers who argue the city abandoned them.
New York City is seeing record numbers of police officers retire or resign. This January and February, 239 left the force; 176 and 110 left during the same months in 2022 and 2021, respectively. NYPD pension data reveals their departures represent a 36% increase from last year and a 117% increase from 2021, according to a report published by the New York Post.
One former NYPD officer, Davey, who relocated to central Florida last year to serve in the Clermont Police Department, said, “After working in the NYPD for 17 years, I began to feel as if the city I served no longer supported my efforts. I decided to look into relocating my family and practicing law enforcement elsewhere.”
He began the process to join the Clermont PD before the bonus program was offered but still qualified for it. He said the program “carried a message that was very reassuring—law enforcement were welcome and embraced here in the state of Florida.” And the bonus money he received paid his first mortgage payment, he said. Money that came “from a state that truly supports its officers! My family and I are grateful for this blessing as it has made us feel welcome and has affirmed our decision to move.”
Another former NYPD officer, Rob, who also joined Clermont PD, said he relocated to Florida because “New York’s over-taxation is burdensome and pays for failed policies that have led to both a dramatic increase in crime and decrease in quality-of-life.”
After 25 years and four promotions at the NYPD, he said, “the choice of moving to Florida was an easy one.” Florida’s cost of living and weather is far better, he says and “the people and the government in Florida are far more appreciative and supportive of law enforcement.”
“Governor DeSantis’s call is being heard and I was happy to make the move,” he added. “The process of going into law enforcement is relatively easy for out-of-state officers and the Clermont Police Department was incredibly supportive and understanding of the challenges faced by the move. Despite all that, moving was incredibly expensive and the bonus was crucial in easing that burden. It is much appreciated.”
Another New Yorker, Kevin, who relocated to work at the Bradenton Police Department last September, said the bonus offset relocation fees “and more importantly, [gave] us peace of mind by reaffirming our decision to relocate.” But his family greatly benefits even more he said, through the state’s Step Up for Children tuition program and Florida’s education system “that has truly set our children up for success.”
Anticipating that more NYPD officers and others from around the country would continue relocating to Florida, DeSantis’ fiscal 2023-2024 budget allocates $30 million to continue funding the recruitment bonus program. This represents a $10 million increase from the previous budget.
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 the police.
When announcing the success of the program one year later, 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 professional provide our communities, and we’ve got their backs.”