GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday announced several proposed initiatives aimed at hiring law enforcement officers in Florida.
DeSantis, speaking during a press conference at Lakeland Police Department headquarters, said three proposals would comprise a package in Florida's next legislative session designed to recruit and retain law enforcement professionals.
The proposals include:
- A $5,000 signing bonus to anyone new to law enforcement in Florida, both new officers from within the state and law enforcement members relocating to the state.
- A recruitment program that removes roadblocks for out-of-state law enforcement officers moving to Florida. It provides a state certification exam free of charge and will cover up to $1,000 per officer in training programs.
- Establishing a law enforcement academy scholarship program for people who might not qualify for other state financial assistance.
DeSantis said motivation for the proposals stemmed from lack of support for law enforcement in other states.
"We see an opportunity, given that morale is low throughout many parts of our country amongst people in law enforcement, we have an opportunity to capitalize on that here in the state of Florida," DeSantis said.
DeSantis, considered a contender for the Republican national ticket in 2024, cited progressives' calls during the past year to defund law enforcement when discussing lack of morale in other police departments.
"There was a movement throughout the country to defund or reduce funding or reduce support for the people who wore the uniform and in Florida," he said. "We said at the very beginning that is not gonna fly in the state of Florida. We’re gonna stand with the men and women of law enforcement."
LPD Asst. Chief Hans Lehman said his department has had a difficult time filling open positions and believes signing bonuses are key to fixing that.
"The legislation that [DeSantis] is talking about I think will be huge for most agencies in Florida that aren’t doing signing bonuses now," said Lehman, who added that his department sent recruiters to New York City this spring and returned with 13 new officers.
The press conference was held two days after four people were killed, an 11-year-old girl was shot and deputies came under fire early in a neighborhood in North Lakeland, Florida.
A former Marine sharpshooter told authorities he was high on methamphetamines when he invaded a home and fatally shot a mother, her 3-month-old baby, and two others.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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