MIAMI, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at the Miami Police Benevolent Association, with the event focused on “Preserving Law and Order in Florida,” according DeSantis’ media channels.
DeSantis began the event by saying that Florida was a “Law and Order” state, and said that other parts of the country “indulged in what I would say are faddish thinking,” and said that despite those attempts and experiments, using social services to fix crime problems was a “disastrous” effort, rather than having police continue on the street when “there are dangerous people.”
In Florida, DeSantis said it would not happen on his watch, and that the state had not only rejected efforts to defund law enforcement, via legislation to preserve funding for agencies.
“You never saw us defund police in the state of Florida, not on my watch,” DeSantis said. He also mentioned 2021’s anti-riot law, praising it as a way to hold people accountable, and said that Florida made sure police were treated better in the state than other areas, including through bonuses as well as recruitment bonuses and other incentives.
He said there had already been 1,000 recruitment bonuses paid out across Florida, saying that the bonuses were helpful, “especially amid inflation.” DeSantis also pointed to how Florida had increased penalties for those dealing in fentanyl and had worked to address border security as well.
Discussing how if people wanted change they should run for office, DeSantis said he had taken steps to root out an effort to “be a law unto themselves,” in Tampa, a reference to ongoing political action involving the governor and suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren.
The governor said the state was dedicated to law and order, and highlighted decreased crime rates in 2022 across Florida.
“Right now, the state of Florida, our crime rate is at a 50-year low,” DeSantis said. “Overall crime is down nearly 10% year-over-year, murder down 14%, burgarly down 15%, and robbery down 7% year-over-year.” He continued, saying that in Miami, the murder rate had dropped 15% from 2020 to 2021, then dropped another 38% in the first half of 2022.
DeSantis said it was owed to policy. Mentioning a recent trip to Philadelphia, the governor said that “all hell can break loose” without better criminal justice policies and that the city had gone soft on crime.
Turning to the coming legislative session in March, DeSantis said the state would be proposing a number of reforms to ensure Florida “keeps the momentum going” and “cements our reputation as being a law and order state, and take further actions to protect the people of Florida.”
Focusing on the proposal, DeSantis said the state would push for changes to the voting process on the death penalty, using the recent sentencing of Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, as a recent example of how a small number of jurors can prevent a death sentence. He said he didn’t believe justice had been served.
“If you’re going to have capital, you have to administrate it to the worst of the worst crimes,” DeSantis said, promising work to reform that statute with the state legislature.
He also said lawmakers would work on increasing their efforts to combat fentanyl, saying that it was troubling that fentanyl had been “jammed into almost anything” saying it was “made to look like candy, it’s been dubbed ‘rainbow fentanyl'” and that law enforcement had recently seized a quarter of a million multicolored fentanyl pills. The governor said he was worried about the effects of fentanyl and its being targeted toward children.
DeSantis said the state would seek to make possession, sale, or manufacture of fentanyl and other controlled substances a felony, if made to look like candy. Additionally, the state would be working on legislation to add a mandatory life sentence and $1 million penalty for targeting children.
He also promised an additional $20 million for his next budget plan for local support funding to law enforcement as a way of intercepting and stopping sales and trafficking of fentanyl. Then, DeSantis compared Florida to areas like New York and Illinois where it was no longer required and had led to “problems.” As a result, he said the state would limit who is eligible for early release prior to first appearances in court, leaving the decision to judges regarding detention.
A detention hearing would also be required before trial for “dangerous crimes,” saying Florida needed a uniform standard for bond policies. He said the state would petition the state’s Supreme Court to set a statewide standard.
Turning to missing persons cases, DeSantis said Florida was also seeking new legislation and policy directives to allow “capital trials” for those who commit child sex crimes and other “worst of the worst” offenders. In the same vein, he said lawmakers should pursue changes to jail and early release policies, making those who commit or attempt to commit certain sexual offenses or violent offenses to lose the option for gain time.
“We do want to ensure the minimum sentence for people, these predators who are raping these young kids do at least get life in prison,” DeSantis said. “Because they will reoffend if you put them back on the street.”
All attempted sexual offenses, including sexual battery, would be included in charges that lose gain time privileges under the proposal, according to the governor. He said people should not “take safe communities for granted.”
Attorney General Ashley Moody spoke next, saying she had 100% certainty she worked the “best attorney general job in the country,” thanks to DeSantis, describing him as proactive and saying she wished the whole country “was run the same way.”
She criticized federal leaders for their border policies, saying it was allowing “poisonous” fentanyl into the country and harming American families.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass spoke after Moody, echoing similar sentiment as far as his law enforcement job and working with DeSantis. Glass said that while Florida is safe and a “bright light” for those working in law enforcement, more needed to be done to address illegal drug challenges both drugs coming across the border from Mexico, and other issues, such as for illegal immigration, leading to “increased crime and stretching our law enforcement resources.”
Several members of law enforcement spoke after, sharing stories involving dealing with fentanyl and the “dangers of our jobs” when serving the public. They said it was even impacting K9 units, with the drug being a threat to their health and safety, as well as for human officers. An advocate for families of overdose victims also spoke, shared their story and thanked the governor for making handling fentanyl a priority of his administration.
The governor took questions after. Asked about high rent costs and the burdens on renters across Florida, DeSantis said some of the prices were driven by the “worst inflation in years,” but also said that due to a lot of multifamily construction in the state, he was optimistic that price increases would ease.
He also said that Senate President Kathleen Passidomo’s number one priority was affordable housing, and that he “fully anticipated” supporting her legislative plans. However, DeSantis said the pricing challenges in South Florida was partly due to being one of the areas people wanted to move to the most.
DeSantis addressed a recent set of federal charges leveled at two Floridians, accused by a reporter from the Epoch Times of being members of ANTIFA in a question about the charges. He said the federal justice department should be more involved in these types of cases, saying he was surprised they were charged at all.
Documents from the DOJ did not say whether the two defendants, or their co-conspirators, were members of ANTIFA.
Answering a question about bail reform and the announced legislative package, DeSantis said the proposal would prevent judges from unilaterally making decisions that affect the state without approval from lawmakers or the governor’s office.
DeSantis was asked about the fifth year anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018 and if enough had been done to prevent similar future events, as well as the federal plan to parole migrants. Answering about the migrant topic first, DeSantis said he did not support “amending the law through executive fiat.”
Regarding the Parkland shooting, DeSantis said no one had been held accountable before he was governor, but that now having that accountability, it was less likely another incident like Parkland would happen.
In closing, DeSantis said he would work with the legislature to ensure justice in Florida.