by Bethany Blankley
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed into law a measure that incentivizes law enforcement officers to move to or stay in the state through monetary awards.
“While other parts of the country are mistreating, marginalizing and defunding law enforcement, in Florida we continue to prioritize and appreciate our law enforcement officers,” DeSantis said during a Friday news conference while accompanied by Attorney General Ashley Moody and House Speaker Chris Sprowls. “This legislation encourages Floridians to pursue careers in law enforcement and attracts high quality law enforcement officers from other states who are sick and tired of the mistreatment they experience to bring their skills to Florida. From $1,000 scholarships to $5,000 bonuses to $25,000 adoption incentives, we are putting our money where our mouth is, and we are backing the blue.”
HB 3 includes 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. It includes signing bonuses for every new recruit, costs covered for training programs and relocation expenses, pay raises and $1,000 bonuses. The bill also created a Law Enforcement Academy Scholarship Program for children of law enforcement officers, and adoption benefits for officers.
“Florida is the most pro-law enforcement state in the nation, and this new law is the perfect example of how our leaders back the blue,” Moody said. “As the wife of a law enforcement officer, it is so important to me that we support the courageous men and women who swear an oath to protect and serve. This law does that and will also boost law enforcement recruitment efforts through our Be A Florida Hero initiative.”
HB 3 was designed to improve the recruitment and retention of Florida law enforcement agencies. Its lead sponsor, Rep. Tom Leek, R-25, said, “We enjoy the freedoms of our community because of the men and women in blue. We want the men and women of law enforcement to know that we support you, we respect you, and we appreciate you. In Florida, we don’t defund the police. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.”
The law creates the Florida Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Payment Program, which authorizes a signing bonus of up to $5,000 for every new law enforcement officer.
It also creates the Florida Law Enforcement Academy Scholarship Program, which covers tuition, fees, and up to $1,000 of eligible education expenses for trainees enrolled in a law enforcement officer basic recruit training program.
The new law also offers a reimbursement program to pay for up to $1,000 of equivalency training costs for certified law enforcement officers who relocate to Florida or members of the special operations forces who become full-time law enforcement officers in Florida.
Among other provisions, it makes law enforcement officers’ children eligible to receive a Family Empowerment Scholarship to attend private schools. It also authorizes funding for law enforcement officers who adopt children through the state’s child welfare system. Officers can receive a $10,000 benefit per child or a $25,000 benefit for adopting a child with special needs.
These benefits are in addition to DeSantis announcing Thursday that for the second year in a row, local government first responders will receive $1,000 bonuses. The legislature authorized in its fiscal 2022-23 budget – $125 million to fund bonuses to benefit local government police officers, sheriff’s deputies, paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters statewide.
“Florida’s police agencies now have powerful tools to recruit and retain the most capable, professional ofﬁcers,” Stephan Dembinsky, president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association and director of the Daytona Beach Shores Public Safety Department, said of HB3 in a statement. “Despite our chiefs’ best efforts, police agencies still face great difﬁculty recruiting enough qualiﬁed ofﬁcers. From hiring bonuses and educational scholarships, to support for law enforcement families and a new emphasis on health and wellness training, HB 3 is just what we need.”
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