Law enforcement agencies nationwide have been having a hard time finding qualified candidates to fill vacancies in their departments.
That issue extends to Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged during a news conference Tuesday in Polk County.
To combat the issue and attract recruits, DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody announced three new policy proposals for next year’s Legislative session. The proposals involve three separate programs:
- New officer signing bonuses
- Academy scholarship program
- Out-of-state relocation support
The signing bonuses would be a one-time $5,000 payment to sworn law enforcement officers who are new to the profession in Florida. That goes for those new to the profession in general and those willing to relocate to Florida from other states, DeSantis explained.
“We think that that’s a way to draw good talent from within our own state to enter the profession in the first place. We also think it’s a way to capitalize off some of the folks who are not getting the support they need, and to say, ‘You know what, you’ll be supported in Florida, and we’re also going to make sure that we do our best to make it worth your while,’” DeSantis said.
The funds would have to be repaid to the state if the officer leaves their role prior to one year of continuous service.
The scholarship program, created through the Department of Education, will provide additional resources for law enforcement academy enrollees. The scholarships will be given on a first come, first served basis and will cover two different tracks for trainees:
- For students who are ineligible to receive other state financial assistance through a state college or technical center law enforcement program, the scholarship will cover the cost of tuition and fees for the program at a state college or technical center
- For students who are attending a private academy, the scholarship will cover the cost associated with the training program at an amount equivalent to the average tuition and fees that would be associated with a public law enforcement training program.
Trainees who are sponsored by a law enforcement agency that covers the cost of academy training are ineligible to receive the scholarship.
“We provide support -- and rightfully so -- for people going to our universities, you know, why don’t we provide support for folks go into law enforcement academies?” DeSantis said. “We are going to be doing that and making sure we’re covering our bases.”
In addition to the $5,000 signing bonus to lure officers to the Sunshine State, Florida will also give the State Officer Certification Exam free of charge to law enforcement officers relocating to Florida and will cover the cost of any necessary Equivalency Training Programs for law enforcement officers relocating to Florida, up to a maximum of $1,000 per officer.
“This is an open invitation for folks in other states to look to Florida as a place where they can not only excel professionally but also live in a great community,” DeSantis said. “This is showing that we will be here, we’ll be supporting you, and we understand how important this function is to a safe and prosperous community.”