‘Be a Florida Hero’ series highlights police officers relocating to Florida

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(The Center Square) – A new series launched by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody highlights state law enforcement recruitment efforts and officers who left blue states to move to Florida after responding to a recruitment program launched by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“With a national lack of support for the important work law enforcement officers do daily, Florida has stood up for what is right,” DeSantis said when announcing the success of the program. “Our back-the-blue policies have brought officers from all 50 states and two U.S. territories to Florida. We will continue to support law and order and make investments in the people that keep our communities safe.”

Florida awarded more than 3,350 bonuses of $5,000 each, after taxes, through the program as of the beginning of the month, including to 915 who moved from other states.

Moody’s Be A Florida Hero “Sunshine Salute Sit-Down Series” features officers, deputies and troopers who responded DeSantis’ call, “left their homes and now serve in the most pro-law enforcement state in the nation.” The series highlights testimonies of officers who left “states that have demonstrated a lack of support for law enforcement and adopted soft-on-crime policies at the expense of public safety,” Moody said.

Chanelle Walsh, a former California law enforcement officer who joined the St. Petersburg Police Department, said, “I saw a very drastic change in about 2015-2016 after a lot of propositions passed,” which decriminalized certain acts or made violent acts not violent.

“You feel like you can’t do your job there because of the decimalization of everything. They hobble you or tie your hands from being able to .. effect any sort of change.”

Officer Dean Buttar who left the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and joined the St. Petersburg Police Department said, “because of legislation you could not do your job as a law enforcement officer. They handcuffed us to not be able to do our jobs. Offenders would be out the same day, next day, two days later. Victims were aware of that and didn’t want to cooperate anymore because they knew the offender wasn’t going to be punished.”

He said California is “not looking after the law-abiding citizens anymore. You’re punishing them, … putting the criminals above the victims. It was so disturbing and disgusting to see criminals were made the heroes and victims continued to be victimized over and over and over.

Moody sat down with a law enforcement couple who met while working at the New York City Police Department. Former NYPD officers Mike and Angeliesse Nesterwitz left New York City to work as Tampa International Airport Police Department officers.

“We took a long look at the future and it just didn’t work for us,” Mike Nesterwitz said of staying in New York. His wife said, “We were looking where we would be most supported. We knew if we came to Florida we would be supported by the policies. We were going to be supported by the community. I can’t even tell you the amount of times people have said, ‘thank you for your service’ here. That is unheard of where we come from.”

She also said other officers have contacted her asking her about the process to relocated to Florida “and we walk them through the steps.”

“We’re thriving. We’re living our best lives here in Florida. They look at us as an example.”

Moody’s office created an interactive map at BeAFloridaHero.com to help people from out of state decide where to start. When clicking on a county on the map, a list of law enforcement agencies, with links to each on how to apply, pops up.

The site also includes information about Florida Department of Law Enforcement Officer requirements and Equivalency of Training Frequently Asked Questions, as well as a list of criminal justice training center locations.

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