TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Law enforcement agencies nationwide have been having a hard time finding qualified candidates to fill vacancies in their departments.
Unfortunately, there is no database on how many law enforcement openings there are at the state level.
Neither the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the Florida Sheriffs Association tracks the data, but the number is likely in the thousands, which is why new recruitment efforts are underway.
From one end of the state to the other there are job openings in law enforcement.
There are at least 350 law enforcement agencies in Florida. If each one had just five vacancies, it would mean more than 1,700 unfilled positions.
There are twelve alone in rural Levy County alone, where Bobby McCallum is Sheriff.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is to a county my size and an agency my size,” said McCallum, who is also the President of the Florida Sheriffs Association.
Three years ago, two deputies were gunned down as they ate lunch at a diner in next door Gilchrist County, evidence the job is more dangerous than ever.
“It also is about the violence, and level of violence. Families being worried about their spouses being in this profession,” said McCallum.
Now, Governor Ron DeSantis is proposing $5,000 hiring bonuses and tuition at an academy to boost recruiting.
While Florida is considered police friendly because of bonuses and the anti-riot bill pushed through earlier this year, Sheriff McCallum did tell us the anti-police attitude nationwide is having an impact here.
“Sometimes they are waiting too long and they put themselves in jeopardy, and they bypassed on that because they’ll think in the back of their mind, hey, I’m gonna get sued,” said McCallum.
Speaking in Walton County Thursday, Gov. DeSantis told reporters the cash itself is important, but there’s more to his proposal than just the money.
“The fact that we are doing that shows that we stand by and we appreciate them,” said DeSantis.
Lawmakers must still approve any bonuses.
The bonuses can also be a double-edged sword if they end up attracting officers who have been forced out elsewhere for questionable behavior.
Sheriff McCallum said out-of-state agencies aren’t always as forthcoming as those in Florida.