For any first responder who has thought about moving to Florida to advance their career, there’s never been a better time. The state’s leaders, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, have taken extraordinary steps to support current first responders in the state and to attract newcomers.
Through the Be a Florida Hero program and the Florida Hero Initiative, the state has put its money where its mouth is when it comes to supporting law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and other first responders.
DeSantis recently underscored that commitment by pledging $400 million to fund proposals that will increase the salaries of Florida’s state law enforcement officers, correctional officers and state special risk firefighters. The money also will provide $1,000 bonuses to first responders across the state.
“While other states have turned their backs on law enforcement, even calling to ‘defund the police,’ in Florida we continue to support the men and women in law enforcement,” the governor said in a news release. “I am proud to propose larger and longer-lasting measures to help our state recruit and retain the best law enforcement officers in the nation and to provide $1,000 bonuses for first responders and law enforcement officers for the second year in a row.”
The Be a Florida Hero Program, launched by Florida Attorney General, Ashley Moody, is a nationwide law enforcement recruitment initiative that seeks to attract the best law enforcement officers to the Sunshine State.
“Our leaders value the tremendous sacrifice of those that take the oath to protect and serve,” said Moody in a video launching the program. “In the state of Florida, we support law enforcement and we’re not afraid to say it. From Miami to Tallahassee, from Tampa to Jacksonville, our brave men and women answer the call every day to protect and serve, and here in Florida, we honor that service.”
The program invites those living in the state, or those “wishing you were,” to look at the potential jobs in law enforcement in the state. Moody promises the state will always support law enforcement. DeSantis has backed up that idea with many a variety of initiatives in recent years.
In addition to healthcare workers, the pandemic has impacted the lives of first responders more than other segments of the population. DeSantis and Florida leaders decided to create a Florida Heroes Initiative that helps support first responders.
It involved allocating $208 million through the state Department of Economic Opportunity to provide one-time relief payments of up to $1,000 to more than 193,000 first responders. That number includes 49,000 law enforcement officers, 40,000 EMTs, 35,000 firefighters and 33,000 paramedics across the state.
DeSantis appeared in person to distribute some of the checks, including those given to officers in Jacksonville. He said, “First responders work every single day – no matter the conditions – to keep us safe. That was perhaps never more apparent than during the last year and a half during the pandemic. I am proud to deliver these checks to show our immense gratitude for their service.”
The recently announced new proposal includes increasing new state officers’ pay by 20 percent and veteran officers’ pay by 25 percent. It also includes a proposed $5,000 bonus for anyone who becomes a new law enforcement officer in Florida.
The hope is to attract the best and the brightest law enforcement officers and other first responders to the state. In Florida, supporting law enforcement is a priority. As a former police officer and a supporter of organizations that benefit first responders, Good Greek owner Spero Georgedakis is happy to see support for first responders from the highest levels of state government.