(The Center Square) – More than 2,200 new recruits to Florida law enforcement agencies have been awarded bonuses through a new program launched last year, with those moving to Florida from 48 states and two U.S. territories.
Florida was the first state to launch such a recruitment program last year and has since issued over 2,265 bonuses. Florida’s Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Program awarded more than $15 million bonuses officers in fiscal 2022. The $5,000 bonus includes a $1,694 payment to cover federal income taxes so the net each receives remains $5,000. Florida does not assess an individual income tax. Each new recruit receives a gross bonus of $6,694.
New recruits and law enforcement officers moved to Florida from 48 states and two U.S. territories, with the most coming from California, New York and Pennsylvania, totaling 230, according to new data released by the governor’s office.
“Through the Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Program, we are ensuring that our law enforcement officers don’t have to think twice about the decision to support their families in a state that puts them first,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said when announcing the numbers. “Florida’s law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities, and I am proud that Florida’s reputation proceeds itself as 668 out-of-state law enforcement recruits have chosen to practice this noble profession in Florida.”
The majority of out-of-state police officers who’ve relocated to Florida have so far moved to Pinellas County, and primarily in the Tampa area, Attorney General Ashley Moody said. She recently welcomed 30 recruits who received Florida law enforcement credentials at St. Petersburg College’s Southeastern Public Safety Institute. There is currently such a high demand at Florida’s credential academies that additional classes are being offered, her office said.
St. Petersburg Chief of Police Anthony Holloway says that “attracting pre-certified officers in good standing from other states enables us to fill vacancies with experienced officers. Also, because they require minimal training, we can send those new officers out on the road more quickly to protect and serve our residents.”
In addition to the bonus, new law enforcement recruits also potentially qualify for student loan forgiveness programs, home loan programs, and other benefits through the Hometown Heroes Program. Through it, more than $100 million in grants have been awarded to over 6,700 police officers, first responders, teachers, veterans and others who serve.
The program provides down payment and closing cost assistance to first-time, income-qualified homebuyers to purchase a primary residence in the community where they serve. It also includes a Hometown Heroes Loan Program that offers a lower first mortgage interest rate and additional benefits to those who’ve served and continue to serve.
Florida’s new “Framework for Freedom Budget” allocates an additional $20 million for a second round of $5,000 recruitment bonuses for new recruits and those who relocate from out of state. The budget also allocates $110 million to provide one-time recognition bonuses for eligible local first responders and nearly $100 million to boost pay for correctional and probation officers.
Law enforcement leaders statewide are praising the governor for prioritizing law enforcement in the state. They argue his policies are “common sense,” increase public safety and enable them to hire “law enforcement officers who stand in the gap between good and evil.”