Tallahassee, FL – The Florida Senate unanimously passed legislation on Thursday that was designed by the governor to help Florida law enforcement agencies recruit officers from out-of-state, along with an amendment to the bill that will give sheriffs more control over their budgets.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis proposed his plan in October of 2021 to offer $5,000 signing bonuses to police officers from other states who wanted to relocate to Florida.
Law enforcement agencies nationwide were reporting a shortage of officers even before the global pandemic and the nationwide riots that followed the death of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police, WJXT reported.
New vaccination mandates in multiple states have added to that problem, and unvaccinated officers have been fired or are retiring in record numbers or looking for transfers to law enforcement agencies in friendlier climes.
Thousands of law enforcement officers have been fired or suspended without pay in Washington, Massachusetts, Illinois, and California, among others, for failing to comply with new rules related to the vaccine, WJXT reported.
Indiana police departments have been recruiting Chicago police officers who were at risk of losing their jobs.
“In Florida, not only are we going to want to protect the law enforcement and all the jobs, we’re actually actively working to recruit out of state law enforcement because we do have needs in our police and our sheriffs’ departments,” DeSantis told FOX News.
“So in the next legislative session, I’m going to hopefully sign legislation that gives a $5,000 bonus to any out of state law enforcement that relocates in Florida,” the governor told FOX News.
Then he delivered a message to members of the law enforcement community nationwide.
“NYPD, Minneapolis, Seattle: If you’re not being treated well, we’ll treat you better here, you can fill important needs for us, and we’ll compensate you as a result,” DeSantis said.
“On a scientific basis, most of those first responders have had COVID and have recovered,” he explained. “So they have strong protection, and so I think that influences their decision.”
The governor pushed back at assertions he was trying to attract unvaccinated officers to the state, WJXT reported.
“No, no, no, no. It’s for officers period, it is has nothing to do with their vaccination status so that’s just wrong,” DeSantis insisted. “I put that out there as a proposal months ago and the reason we’re doing it is because people are being treated poorly in Seattle and Minnesota, and NYPD, they don’t have the support, they’ve had their funding cut.”
He pointed out that law enforcement officers in Florida were some of the first in the nation to have been offered the vaccine.
Florida House Bill 3 was passed 108 to 4 by the state House on Feb. 17.
The legislation created a one-time, $5,000 signing bonus for officers who relocated to Florida and a $1,000 reimbursement to help pay for their move.
The Florida Senate voted 34 to 0 to pass the legislation on March 10 with the addition of an amendment that gave local sheriffs the power to shift money around in their budgets after the budgets had been approved by county commissioners.
Opponents of the amendment said it gave the sheriffs too much power, Florida Politics reported.
“The challenge here is they can move money around without oversight, without budget approval,” Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes said. “They can buy 10 squad cars instead of hiring 10 officers, even if they told us they were going to hire 10 officers.”
“The sheriffs somehow are now magical creatures that can move money wherever they want,” Brandes told his colleagues on the state House floor.
But supporters of the amendment said lawmakers needed to let local sheriffs do the jobs they were elected to do without micromanagement, Florida Politics reported.
“This boils down in my estimation to: Are you going to choose to stand with your sheriffs or not?” Florida State Senator Ben Albritton asked. “I am going to stand with my sheriffs.”
DeSantis was expected to sign the bill into law as soon as it reached his desk.