State: 668 officers moved to Florida in last year

Alachua County Sheriff's Office sign
Photo by Suzette Cook

Local law enforcement agencies have benefited from a state program that has handed out $15 million in bonuses to new law enforcement officers and those moving from out of state.  

According to a press release from the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis, the program has netted 668 officers from 48 states and two U.S. territories. The officers received a $5,000 post-tax bonus along with new recruits.  

“Through the Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Program, we are ensuring that our law enforcement officers don’t have to think twice about the decision to support their families in a state that puts them first,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Florida’s law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities, and I am proud that Florida’s reputation proceeds itself as 668 out-of-state law enforcement recruits have chosen to practice this noble profession in Florida.” 

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In Alachua County, the state reported 22 officers receiving bonuses between the sheriff’s office, Gainesville Police Department, Santa Fe Police, UF Police and the city of Alachua Police.  

At a county meeting on June 27, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) staff reported 99 vacancies within the jail department—where county officials have started making changes. Staff said nine of those were projected to be filled soon.  

ACSO spokesperson Art Forgey told Mainstreet that three new officers started this week with around four more ready to graduate and join the office.  

He said the department has been sponsoring people who want to attend the law enforcement academy. The sheriff’s office hires the person and pays for their way through the law enforcement academy. Afterward, the employee can join the ACSO ranks. Forgey said the practice has increased in the past few years.  

“It’s a tough time,” Forgey said. “It’s shift work, it’s weekends, it’s holidays; it’s missing time with your family. I think it’s just not as attractive as it used to be and maybe just a different generation of folks.”    

Besides pay concerns, Forgey said the public perception of law enforcement has likely dissuaded new candidates from the career.  

The problem has persisted for the past few years nationwide, prompting recruitment and retention efforts. ACSO employees received historic raises at the end of 2022, and the department increased its starting pay for officers with the help of $2.7 million in one-time funds.  

However, Sherrif Clovis Watson Jr. noted at the time that ACSO starting salaries still lagged some neighboring counties. His goal is to hit $50,000.  

For more information about the Florida Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Payment Program, visit

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Mostly rejects from states that don’t want them, lawsuits waiting to happen.