DeSantis looks at bonuses for unvaccinated police to relocate to Florida

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Is this a smart policy move or just another way to jam a splinter under the fingernail of the Biden administration? We’re discussing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ latest announcement concerning law enforcement and COVID vaccine mandates. Much of the focus on that topic has recently centered on Chicago, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate is putting a significant portion of the Chicago PD either on unpaid leave or out on the streets entirely. Other cities are running into the same situation. But now they might have a more affordable path to finding new work without having to roll up their sleeves. DeSantis is working to sign legislation that would offer thousands of dollars as a bonus to any out-of-state and recently unemployed cops who move to Florida and fill up the law enforcement ranks there. (The Hill)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said on Sunday that he is looking to enact legislation that will provide a $5,000 bonus to police officers to relocate to Florida, where they can avoid vaccine mandates.

DeSantis told host Maria Bartitomo on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” that Florida is “actively working” to recruit law enforcement officers from other states who are being fired for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re actually actively working to recruit out-of-state law enforcement, because we do have needs in our police and our sheriff’s departments. So, in the next legislative session, I’m going to hopefully sign legislation that gives a $5,000 bonus to any out-of-state law enforcement that relocates in Florida,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis specifically directed his call to the police in Minneapolis, Seattle, and the NYPD. He assured them that if they are not being treated well by their own government where they are now, “you will be treated better here.” He also spoke of the important work they would be doing for Floridians and promised that they would be well compensated.

It’s a generous offer, particularly for any officers who are renters. You can probably cover quite a bit of your relocation expenses with $5,000. Of course, it’s not going to be the same for homeowners who will have a lot of complicating factors to deal with.

So as I asked at the top of this article, what is it that DeSantis is really doing here? Is this a genuine offer to fill an actual need that Florida has or is this primarily an “own the libs” maneuver to get under Joe Biden’s skin? Perhaps the most obvious answer would be… why not both? DeSantis is opening a legislative session this week aiming to declare Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate unconstitutional and stop anyone in Florida from losing their jobs because they aren’t vaccinated. He’s clearly setting up a fight with the White House, perhaps because he may have his eye on Biden’s job in 2024.

But that doesn’t mean that the relocation bonus couldn’t still be a profitable idea. I haven’t seen any reports of Florida experiencing a crippling lack of recruits for the Police Academy, but there are always openings to be filled. And rather than vetting and training a raw recruit from scratch, luring experienced law enforcement officers from other states could fill those jobs without the massive investments required for a new rookie. Looked at in that regard, this could actually be a smart budget maneuver. It costs the state many thousands of dollars to bring a new recruit from the application process to their first shift on the job. If you can spend five grand and have someone who is pretty much ready to roll on day one, it’s probably a good deal.

Will it work? I don’t know if a ban on disciplinary measures for those ignoring vaccine mandates will make it through the courts, but there’s nothing illegal about offering incentives for people to move to your state and fill important jobs. Governors do that all the time. So as far as I can tell, DeSantis should be in the clear on this one if the legislature approves the funding.