TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday responded to reports that said he was offering $5,000 signing bonuses for out-of-state officers who wanted to escape vaccine mandates in their area.
DeSantis responded to questions on the matter during a news conference in North Venice. In his response, he said the proposed bonus was for any new police officer in the state of Florida, as reported by 8 On Your Side back in September.
“This has nothing to do with their vaccination status so that’s just wrong,” the governor said in response to the claim.
DeSantis previously said the proposed bonus was part of three programs that would be proposed in the next state legislative session to help improve police recruitment in Florida, with an added focus on recruiting from outside the state of Florida.
“The reason we’re doing it is because people are being treated poorly in Seattle, in Minnesota, in (the) NYPD,” he said. “They don’t have the support. They’ve had their funding cut.”
While the governor said he didn’t believe officers should be fired for not getting vaccinated for COVID-19, the reasoning stems more from the backlash against police officers over accusations of racial bias, particularly during the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in 2020.
“I think that’s wrong for sure, but our $5,000 bonus, that applies to anyone,” DeSantis said. “If you’re in NYPD and you’re not getting the support you need and you’re qualified, you come down here. You’re gonna get a bonus because we got your back.”
When 8 On Your Side asked for further clarification, the governor’s office issued a lengthy statement regarding the governor’s statements:
To clear up the confusion here: This bonus proposed by the governor would be available to unvaccinated AND vaccinated individuals who get hired by state and local law enforcement agencies in Florida. Therefore, law enforcement officers from other states who were fired due to vaccine mandates would be eligible for this bonus in Florida, but so would law enforcement officers from other states who move here for different reasons. No one will be asked to verify their vaccination status as a condition of hiring or employment at Florida’s state and local law enforcement agencies.
In August, Governor DeSantis announced a new initiative to recruit law enforcement from out of state. As part of this proposal, anyone hired for a law enforcement role in Florida who has not worked in LE in our state before would be eligible for a $5,000 bonus. The Governor laid out this proposal well before first responders in other parts of the country were terminated over their personal medical decisions. So, to be clear, police officers (from e.g., Chicago or Seattle) who lost their jobs due to medical tyranny would be eligible for this bonus if they relocated to Florida to work in law enforcement.
But vaccinated police officers from anywhere in the country would also be welcome here and eligible for the same bonus. In other states, police officers who are vaccinated are also considering leaving the force due to other challenges, such as the anti-police rhetoric and political threats of defunding law enforcement in certain parts of the country (these tend to be the same areas terminating first responders over vaccine mandates). For example, Lakeland PD has successfully recruited over a dozen officers from NYPD recently, and they had not been terminated over vaccination status — they left NYC because they felt that the atmosphere there had become toxic for law enforcement over the past year.