DeSantis is recruiting police officers with violent records under $13.5m incentive programme, report says

The Florida governor is expected to launch his presidential campaign in the coming days

Abe Asher
Tuesday 23 May 2023 19:34 BST
Ron DeSantis calls Tucker Carlson a ‘fantastic individual’

A number of law enforcement officers lured to Florida with one-time bonuses under a programme championed by Governor Ron DeSantis have violent records, new reporting shows.

Last spring, Mr DeSantis signed legislation giving a $5,000 after-tax bonus to new law enforcement recruits in Florida. The bill, Mr DeSantis claimed, would lure the “best and the brightest” law enforcement officers from states around the country to Florida.

“If you’re being mistreated, you’re not being supported — whether you’re on the west coast, whether you’re in New York, whether you’re in Chicago, any of these places — if you’re qualified and you can fill a spot here, you know, we’re gonna get your back,” Mr DeSantis said at a bill signing ceremony in Polk County. “And so, we’re getting your back in the form of a $5,000 signing bonus.”

But according to reporting by The Daily Dot, a number of the police officers who’ve recieved bonuses since the passage of the bill are not the best and the brightest but rather officers who either arrived in the state with troubling disciplinary records or have since acquired them.

Among the officers brought to the state is one who reportedly came to Palm Beach from New York City after he was accused of brutality while policing the racial justice protests that followed the murder of George Floyd in 2020, as well as an officer in Miramar fired for domestic battery and kidnapping, and a trainee sheriff’s deputy in Escambia County accused of killing her husband.

The disciplinary issues do not stop there, The Daily Dot reports. Another officer who came to Florida from New York was apparently charged with reckless endangerment after allegedly driving his car into a group of racial justice protesters. Other complaints against officers reportedly include false imprisonment and sexual extortion.

Nevertheless, Mr DeSantis is trumpeting the programme as a success. In a press release put out last month, the governor announced that the state has given out more than 2,000 bonuses to law enforcement officers at a cost of $13.5m. According to the press release, more than 200 officers have relocated to the state from California, New York, Texas, and Pennsylvania alone.

The Independent has reached out to Mr DeSantis’ office for comment on this story.

The reporting on the public safety effects of Florida Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Program come as Mr DeSantis reportedly prepares to officially announce his presidential bid after months of speculation and trips to early primary states like New Hampshire.

Mr DeSantis led former President Donald Trump in polling of some early primary states several months ago, but his poll numbers have since taken a hit as the former president has targeted him with attacks. Meanwhile, Florida has rapidly become the poster child for far right politics with both the LGBTQ+ advocay group Equality Florida and the NAACP issuing travel advisories warning visitors about the risks of coming to the state.

“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the NAACP advisory reads. “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”

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