TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — When it comes to the best places to be a police officer, a new WalletHub study puts Florida in the bottom 25. Out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Florida ranked No. 36 in the study, based on “opportunity and competition, law enforcement training requirements, and job hazards and protections.”
Despite efforts by state lawmakers to provide hiring bonuses and other incentives for officers to move to Florida from out state, Florida only ranked No. 33 for opportunity.
For training requirements to be an officer, Florida was placed at No. 42 on the list, while it broke into the top 20 for job hazards and protections, reaching No. 15.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reports there are more than 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers currently serving the various agencies and departments found in the United States. The state of Florida passed legislation to encourage and support law enforcement officers. Comments by Gov. Ron DeSantis took aim at efforts by some Democratic Party lawmakers and advocates to “defund the police” and reprioritize some funding to go to mental health counseling and social work instead.
In Florida, state leaders approved legislation like House Bill 3 to give more incentives to work as an officer of the law, encourage officers from outside the state to move here, and to boost recruitment efforts in the state. Incentives included bonuses, pay increases and improved educational opportunities for officers and their families when it came to higher education and job training. The governor signed it into law on April 1.
The WalletHub study said “there’s a $66,020 mean annual wage” for law enforcement officers in the U.S., based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS said the median pay amounts to $31.74 per hour for police officers and detectives, as of May 2021.
In addition to salary, the study said officers typically receive “a generous benefits package which can include retirement contribution matches, tuition assistance, ample leave time, a take-home vehicle, and access to health and fitness facilities.”
However, law enforcement work is not without its challenges.
The BLS describes the work environment of police officers and other members of law enforcement as “physically demanding, stressful, and dangerous,” saying “police and sheriff’s patrol officers and transit and railroad police have some of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Working around the clock in shifts is common.”
From 2020 to 2030, BLS expects “about 67,100 openings for police and detectives” every year. For Floridians, the mean yearly wage for detectives and investigators was $81,850, while for officers, it was $66,320, above the national level, as of May 2021.
Since then, Florida has passed new legislation to both give hiring bonuses and increase wages by 5.4%, according to state lawmakers. That change is expected to take effect by October 2022.
The Projections Managing Partnership, an employment projection program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, estimated that from 2021 to 2023, Florida will see an average of 1,980 correctional officer openings and 3,400 police and sheriff’s patrol openings per year. Still, BLS predicts the number of officers employed will grow an additional 7% by 2030.
One of the experts interviewed by WalletHub about factors affecting policing said how officers are trained is still in need of reform, which adds to staffing shortages.
“There will be continuing staffing shortages in most police departments until current reform efforts fully take root and lead to major changes in the way police officers are trained and in their scope of duties,” John J. Sloan III, Ph.D. said. Sloan is Professor Emeritus, Department of Criminal Justice – University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Overall police academy basic training continues to stress ‘traditional’ aspects of policing those stress operations, particularly weapons and self-defense (including training in targeting a suspect’s carotid artery as a pressure point to overcome resistance.”
Sloan said training on things like “de-escalation, ethics, communication skills, procedural justice, building strength through diversity, and in community-oriented policing” was not prioritized to the same degree.
He said as long as reforms “fail” to separate police from the military, in terms of organizational structure, the gap between police and their communities will continue.
Educational factors also contribute to training requirements and rankings for quality of which states have better environments for officers. Florida requires that all law enforcement officers be at least 19-years-old and have a minimum degree of a high school diploma, though correctional probation officers need a bachelor’s degree or higher.
To be an officer, the state requires passage of the Florida Officer Certification Exam, as well as passing a background check. That must happen before basic training for recruitment can even start. Training lasts 22 weeks.
Check the full rankings for each state below.
|Rank||State||Overall Score||Opportunity and Competition||Law Enforcement Training Requirements||Job Hazards and Protections|
|4||District of Columbia||56.66||1||3||49|