ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Florida governor Ron DeSantis announced new legislation to increase payment for both local and state law enforcement, as well as new bonuses for all first responders in the state, during a press conference at the Florida Highway Patrol headquarters in Orlando.
DeSantis criticized other states that have sought to defund different police forces across the country, a request that was made in many parts of the country following the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020.
“Many municipalities did take a huge chunk out of their law enforcement budgets, and now they’re racing to find ways to get it back because crime has skyrocketed. It has truly been one of the most disastrous policies that anyone has tried to implement, this ‘defund law enforcement'”, he said.
The new legislation adds $73 million to increase the minimum pay for entry level state officers by 20% and to increase veteran officer salaries by 25%.
It also includes $135 million to increase the base pay of correctional and Juvenile Justice Officers, which leave them at between $17 and $19 per hour, and $1.4 million to increase the salaries of state Special Risk firefighters by up to $2,500.
At a local level, the new legislation offers $5,000 signing bonuses for every new recruit in law enforcement in Florida, and $1,000 bonuses for all first responders, including law enforcement, paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters, for the second year in a row.
It also created a law enforcement academy scholarship program to cover the cost of enrollment for new recruits, and provides the State Officer Certification Exam free of charge to officers relocating to Florida, plus covering up to $1,000 per officer in costs of any equivalent training programs.
“(This) will make a real difference for their families, it will help retain a lot of the talented people we have, as well as recruit new people into our highway patrol, into our Fish and Wildlife, into the Florida Department of Law Enforcement,” DeSantis said.
Florida Highway Patrol chief Mark Brown thanked the governor for his “unwaivering support of law enforcement officers not only in the state, but across the country.”
“No New Lockdowns”
DeSantis added that “we in Florida are not going to allow any media driven hysteria to do anything to infringe any people’s liberties regarding any COVID variants.”
He was referring to the discovery of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus, called Omicron, which Dr. Anthony Fauci, medical advisor for the Biden administration, has already said should be fought with any means necessary, including lockdowns, although he said it was “too early to tell” whether they would be necessary.
President Joe Biden said in a press conference on Monday that “if people are vaccinated and wear their mask, there’s no need for lockdowns.”
Nevertheless, DeSantis took the chance to criticize the idea that there would be new lockdowns.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something new,” he said. “There have not been honest about the origins of the virus and they have not been forthright on natural immunity. (…) We have to be honest, those travel restrictions did not work.”
“In Florida, we will not let them lock you down. We will not let them take your jobs. We will not let them harm your businesses. We will not let them close your schools,” he added.
Juan Carlo Rodriguez is a politics and entertainment reporter for Florida National News and Content Coordinator for FNN News en Español. | firstname.lastname@example.org