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Proposed police bonus seen as boon to Florida agencies

ORLANDO, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed $5,000 bonus for all new officers in the state is widely seen as a boost to agencies struggling to fill their positions, particularly by those within the law enforcement industry.

DeSantis made his announcement in Lakeland on Tuesday, the city where a mass shooting happened over the weekend.

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“It’s fundamental that we have safe communities, and you don’t have safe communities if you’re not supporting the folks who wear the uniform,” he said to a crowd of reporters.

The state Fraternal Order of Police supported the measure, which still has to go through the state legislature.

Unlike other areas of the country where last year’s Black Lives Matter protests dampened recruiting efforts, officers said Florida’s hiring issues mostly stem from the state’s population growth.

“Once [cities] begin to increase the staffing levels that are authorized, then you begin to see additional vacancies on top of your attrition vacancies,” FOP 1st Vice President Shawn Dunlap said, adding that Orlando has done a good job of managing its number of vacant positions.

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Many attrition vacancies were due to retirement, he said.

A few miles away, Osceola County Sheriff Marco Lopez said word of the bonus was already attracting applicants from states where law enforcement was more politically toxic.

“We’ve got a lot of people that are very interested in working,” he said, adding that some of the surge was due to initiatives within his department and his agency’s overall reputation.

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Dunlap said he didn’t think the bonus would solve all of Florida’s problems, citing the dangerous working conditions of being a police officer. Still, it was a good component to have, he explained, along with a good benefits package and a competitive salary.

“We do have a lot of support from our leaders, which makes being a law enforcement officer a lot easier than other places,” he said.

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