Critics fear Gov. Ron DeSantis might be putting Florida residents at risk by trying to score culture-war points with right-wing activists.
The Florida Republican has offered pay increases to police and $5,000 bonuses to new officers, including those fed up with vaccine mandates in other states, but some fear that could lure cops who had previously been accused of misconduct or with other issues, reported The Daily Beast.
“He cares about whether he’s going to get enough delegates when he runs for president,” said Alex Saiz, director of legal services for the nonprofit Florida Justice Center.
DeSantis, a rumored 2024 presidential candidate, has pushed an anti-rioting bill aimed at protesters and a state Board of Education policy banning critical race theory, along with a proposal to allow parents to sue over anti-racist lessons, and Saiz said the governor is wasting Florida resources to score political points.
“Ron DeSantis wants — whenever someone is scared of a new theory and looks up 'defund the police' or critical race theory — to be the first story in that news cycle saying, ‘Look at what this guy is doing,’” Saiz said. “Whether these policies have actually benefited a person in Florida or not is completely irrelevant.”
A spokeswoman for DeSantis declined to comment on the governor's presidential ambitions but said he was not bashing calls to reduce funding for police as a political stunt.
“We do not want Florida to be like San Francisco,” said spokeswoman Christina Pushsaw. “We do not want carjackings to be as commonplace in Florida as they are in D.C.”
However, some believe that DeSantis is putting his state at risk by attempting to lure police officers with questionable background or judgment to Florida.
“The fact is he’s not just focused on bonuses and salaries for law enforcement, but he’s also trying to appeal to police officers that might have questionable track records in other states,” said state Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando). “He’s really trying to give off the impression that even if you break the rules, you can come to the state of Florida.”