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Gov. Ron DeSantis proposes $5K signing bonuses for new Florida officers

The governor also mentioned law enforcement training scholarships during a news conference in Lakeland.

LAKELAND, Fla. — In an effort to increase law enforcement recruitment across Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced several incentives that would need to be OKed by state lawmakers.

DeSantis said in the upcoming legislative session, a proposal will be made for $5,000 signing bonuses for people who choose a career in law enforcement or who move to Florida to serve in law enforcement. 

An additional proposal will include law enforcement training scholarships.

Desantis, speaking in Lakeland following the deadly shooting that left four people dead and an 11-year-old critically injured, was joined by Attorney General Ashley Moody at the Lakeland Police Department.

During the news conference, DeSantis said Florida had a prime opportunity to recruit officers from across the country due to "low morale" from officers working in cities and counties that had "defunded" or reduced funding to law enforcement agencies.

While DeSantis inferred that places that had "turned their backs" on law enforcement and removed funding "invariably" saw "steep increases in violent crime," data suggests it's not that simple. 

According to a recent analysis by BBC, violent crime in the U.S. overall was up about 3 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. However, in context with previous decades, violent crime has been on a downward trend, particularly in comparison to a peak in the early 1990s. 

And while it's true that there was a steep rise in murders across the U.S. in 2020 — up by 25 percent — it was still "far lower" in comparison to the murder rate about 30 years ago.

DeSantis briefly referenced a situation with a "guy crazed on drugs" as an example as to why law enforcement officers are needed. 

When asked about Sunday's deadly shooting in Lakeland, DeSantis said, "this is an outrageous crime. This guy was totally off his rocker and needs to have the full weight of the law brought down." 

"But when you have something like that happening, what do you do? These are the folks that you call upon," DeSantis continued, pointing to the law enforcement officers standing behind him.  

Five people were shot between two homes before dawn Sunday in Lakeland. Four died, including an infant: 40-year-old Justice Gleason, a 33-year-old woman and the 3-month-old baby she was holding, and a 62-year-old woman. 

The gunman was 33-year-old security guard Bryan Riley, investigators say. Riley is a former Marine and Reservist, who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a sharpshooter, according to Sheriff Grady Judd.

The adults begged for their lives before Riley killed them, Judd said.

An 11-year-old girl was shot multiple times and was airlifted to the hospital. On Monday, the sheriff's office says the girl is in critical condition but is stable. 

The family dog was also killed in the attack. The dog happened to be named after K-9 Diogi, a Polk County Sheriff’s Office K-9 killed with his handler, Deputy Matt Williams, in 2006.

Riley was denied bond.

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