More police officers relocating to Florida from other states

(The Center Square) – Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody welcomed new police officers to the state after they relocated from Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico and New York.

“Florida is the most pro-law enforcement state in the nation because we back our blue,” Moody said. “We’ve been spreading the word about all the great incentives to join our ranks, and individuals like the new Sarasota recruits have answered the call – leaving behind places where their service was not as appreciated as it is here.”

Moody again recognized new recruits who moved to serve in Sarasota through her “Thin Line Tribute: Sunshine Salute” initiative after highlighting new recruits from California and New York who joined the St. Petersburg Police Department.

“This is a law-and-order state. Officers want to be able to do their job,” Sarasota Police Chief Rex Troche said. “There is no better feeling than when you know that you can go out there and be supported in enforcing the law. I’ve talked with officers all around the country and when state attorneys are not assisting them, it makes those officers not want to do their jobs. Thanks to the work of Attorney General Moody and Gov. [Ron] DeSantis, officers know that when you come to the state of Florida, you are going to be able to do, and be supported in, doing your job.”

New recruit Sarasota Police Officer Andrew Capozzi said he left New York for Florida because “protecting and serving in New York became increasingly difficult over the past several years, as some leaders turned their backs on law enforcement and flawed criminal justice policies allowed many defendants back out on the street within hours of being arrested,” according to a statement from Moody’s office.

New recruit Sarasota Police Officer Les Kismartoni, who worked for more than 20 years as a programmer in Chicago, decided to make a change to become a police officer in Florida. Kismartoni said it was the leadership at the local and state level of law enforcement that prompted the change.

Police officers are relocating to Florida through a new Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Program created by DeSantis and the state legislature that first launched in April 2022. DeSantis signed the first bill of its kind into law allocating $125 million for bonuses to benefit local police officers, sheriff’s deputies, paramedics, EMTs and firefighters statewide. The legislature has since renewed funding for these programs and expanded protections for law enforcement officers.

In February, DeSantis presented the 4,000th bonus check to Bay County Sheriff’s Deputy Matthew Belthrop, who relocated from Virginia to take advantage of the program. New recruits receive a $5,000 bonus after taxes, receiving bonuses of $6,693, including the federal taxes owed on the $5,000 bonus.

The number of new recruits has since jumped to nearly 5,000 since July 2022. They include more than 1,200 from out of state and a combined 400 from California, Illinois and New York.

New recruits have moved to Florida from all 50 states and two U.S. territories, according to the governor’s office.

The SPD also recently announced that Sarasota had no homicides in 2023 and a more than 16% drop in homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, larcenies and vehicle thefts in 2022.

Overall, Florida is currently experiencing a 50-year crime low.

DeSantis has argued that communities are struggling nationwide in jurisdictions where politicians embraced defunding law enforcement and “soft on crime policies” like implementing no cash bail. In 2020, the Florida legislature passed protections against defunding law enforcement and began allocating funding to give law enforcement officers $1,000 bonuses for three consecutive years. In 2022, the recruitment program was created.

Moody launched the Thin Line Tribute in 2021 to recognize the daily efforts of front-line officers. In 2023, she launched the Sunshine Salute Series welcoming 30 new recruits at St. Petersburg College’s Southeastern Public Safety Institute, also highlighting new recruits from Philadelphia, Chicago and New York City, The Center Square reported.

In addition to the new recruit bonus program, law enforcement officers may also be eligible for the Hometown Heroes Housing Program, which provides frontline workers in more than 100 eligible professions with down payment and closing cost assistance to help purchase a primary residence in the communities where they work.

Those interested in applying can find more information here.