Backing the Blue: DeSantis proposes $400 million to boost first responder pay, recruitment

“While other states have turned their backs on law enforcement, even calling to ‘defund the police,’ in Florida we continue to support the men and women in law enforcement,” governor said.

Updated: December 1, 2021 - 10:55pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed $400 million in funding to boost law enforcement officers pay and prioritize recruitment of new officers to state and local law enforcement agencies.

The proposal will be considered during the 2022 Florida legislative session, which begins in January.

“While other states have turned their backs on law enforcement, even calling to ‘defund the police,’ in Florida we continue to support the men and women in law enforcement,” DeSantis said. “I am proud to propose larger and longer-lasting measures to help our state recruit and retain the best law enforcement officers in the nation and to provide $1,000 bonuses for first responders and law enforcement officers for the second year in a row.”

The proposal would allocate $73 million to increase the minimum pay for entry-level sworn state law enforcement officers by 20% and increase veteran officer salaries by 25%. It would allocate $135 million to increase the base pay of correctional officers and Department of Juvenile Justice officers. It also would direct $1.4 million toward increasing the salaries of state special risk firefighters by up to $2,500 each.

Funding would also support $5,000 signing bonuses for every recruit who is new to the law enforcement profession in Florida.

For those who relocate from another state, the Florida Officer Certification Exam would be free of charge, as would the cost of any necessary equivalent training programs for relocating officers, up to $1,000 per officer.

DeSantis’ proposal also includes a new law enforcement Academy Scholarship Program to cover the cost of enrollment for men and women seeking to enter the police force. The scholarship would be offered through the state Department of Education on a first-come, first-served basis. It would help cover tuition costs and fees for the program for students attending a state college or technical center or a private academy, with some exceptions.

Earlier this year, the governor worked with the Legislature to secure $1,000 bonuses for 174,000 first responders. The plan before the legislature includes a second round of $1,000 bonuses applicable for first responders, including law enforcement officers, paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and firefighters statewide.

The funding proposal was widely backed by members of the law enforcement community who all said it would help recruit and retain highly qualified law enforcement officers.

Terry L. Rhodes, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, said the proposal “addresses a critical need within the Florida Highway Patrol. Recruiting and retaining highly qualified law enforcement officers dedicated to public services is crucial, now more than ever.”

Col. Roger Young, FWC Division of Law Enforcement and FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said the funding would enable them to recruit and retain qualified officers, adding that that “recruiting and maintaining public safety personnel is vital to strengthening our communities and keeping all Floridians and visitors safe.”