Surrounded by law enforcement officials and other members of the Legislature on Tuesday, Governor DeSantis announced the proposal of three new initiatives designed to recruit and retain law enforcement officers in Florida.
The three proposed initiatives include, new officer signing bonuses of $5,000, the Academy Scholarship Program for the Florida Law Enforcement Academy, and out-of-state relocation support.
A news release by the governor’s office highlighting Tuesday’s press conference, noted that these bonuses will be eligible to individuals with no prior employment in Florida as a sworn law enforcement officer, corrections officer or other institutional security officer – meaning out-of-state officers may be eligible for the new officer bonus.
However, it also notes that the bonuses shall be paid back to the state if an officer who receives the bonus leaves their role prior to one year of continuous service.
The Academy Scholarship Program will be established by the Florida Department of Education, which is intended to provide additional resources for enrollees in the Florida law enforcement academy program. Scholarships will be on a first-come, first-serve basis and are designed to fit two different tracks for enrollees.
One track is for students who are ineligible to receive other state financial assistance through a state college or technical center law enforcement program. In that case, the scholarship will cover the cost of tuition and fees for the program at said state college or technical center.
The other track is for students who are enrolled in law enforcement programs at private academies, for which the scholarship will pay for costs associated with the training program at an amount equal to the “average tuition and fees that would be associated with a public law enforcement training program.”
In addition, the press release states, “Trainees who are sponsored by a law enforcement agency that covers the cost of academy training are ineligible to receive the scholarship.”
As far as relocation support for out-of-state officers, Florida will provide its State Officer Certification Exam “free of charge,” as well as covering the cost of “any necessary Equivalency Training Programs,” up to a maximum of $1,000 per officer.
After calling the new initiatives a “legislative priority” for the upcoming session, DeSantis said, “Florida values our law enforcement community, and we must provide them the support they need and deserve to at the end of the day protect and serve our state.”
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, whose husband is a law enforcement officer, said in a statement, “As the wife of a law enforcement officer, I am so grateful that we have a Governor who understands and appreciates that our brave LEOs put their lives on the line every day to uphold the rule of law and protect Floridians.”
She added, “I could not be more thankful for Governor DeSantis’ efforts to support all of our law enforcement heroes. These recruitment initiatives demonstrate our appreciation and commitment to the men and women who choose to wear the badge and serve as a reminder to our frontline heroes that we have their backs.”
Commenting on the issue Florida is seeing regarding a high number of vacant law enforcement positions, Lakeland Assistant Chief of Police Hans Lehman said, “The proposed legislation from Governor DeSantis that includes signing bonuses will help law enforcement agencies across Florida fill vacancies and continue to provide high-quality services to the citizens of this state.”
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Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Ron DeSantis” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Presidio of Monterey Police Department Promotion Ceremony” by Presidio of Monterey.