Law enforcement staffing shortages across the country and in some areas of Florida are forcing agencies to stay proactive and increase recruiting efforts.
According to data from the National Police Foundation, many agencies are struggling with attrition due to police budget cuts, low morale and increasing retirements.
That is why Florida Attorney General Ashely Moody’s Office is intent on staying ahead of the curve by attracting new law enforcement talent with the launch of a recruiting initiative and website called “Be a Florida Hero.”
“Florida is the most pro-law enforcement state in the nation. We want officers from areas that don’t value their service to know that here in the Sunshine State, we back our blue,” Moody said in a press release. “Florida enjoys a long tradition of supporting law enforcement, and we have leadership that understands and appreciates what it takes to protect and serve.”
Many officers like Dionis Veras have moved to Florida because of its pro-law enforcement stance. He came to Port St. Lucie after working with the NYPD for four years.
“I go down the street, they say, ‘I love you. We support you. Thank you. Thank you for your service,’” Veras said of the supportive community.
The Port St. Lucie Police Department, which has 280 officers currently, is confident it can continue to grow its ranks.
“You see the national narrative with the defund the police movement, anti-police sentiment,” Assistant Police Chief Richard Del Toro said. “We really don’t see that here in the city of Port St. Lucie.”
Del Toro said his department focuses on community engagement, embracing diversity, and high-quality customer service.
“This is going to be a partnership, hopefully for 30 years, and I don’t want anyone to come to the Port St. Lucie Police Department and find out after day one, ‘Oh, I didn’t know customer service was important. I didn’t know community policing was important.'”
Meanwhile, in Palm Beach County, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s department has nearly 1,600 personnel and it’s not changing any time soon.
“It’s not so bad in Palm Beach County. You know, we haven’t had any defunding issues,” he said. “In fact, the county commission has been very supportive.”
Bradshaw said that he is confident the department will maintain adequate manpower, but still strives to be proactive with recruiting due to the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In 2019, we had pretty close to 700 applicants when we went out and did recruiting. Right now, in the last 11 months, we’re at about maybe 300 at the most,” Bradshaw admitted.
Bradshaw added that the county jail has lost 60 sworn personnel over COVID-19 worries, forcing employees to work overtime.
In the meantime, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has stepped-up recruiting efforts, offering $5,000 signing bonuses to draw new officers and recruits.