By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
There are a lot of incentives to becoming a police officer in Florida. Law enforcement agencies throughout this state offer very competitive salaries compared to agencies in other states, comprehensive medical plans and excellent retirement plans. In addition, Florida does not impose a state income tax for its residents.
DROP Allows Police Officers to Earn Two Incomes Simultaneously
Many law enforcement agencies continue to offer the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP). This program is a retirement benefit within agency retirement systems, such as the Florida Retirement System (FRS). It allows participants to accumulate benefits in the FRS Trust Fund, so that your funds can earn interest while you continue to work for up to five years.
Ultimately, DROP enables participants to keep working while accumulating a savings account that collects the money they would receive upon retirement. Officers can earn two incomes at the same time while one of them is invested tax-free. The “My Florida” website has more information on the DROP.
Florida Now Offers a $5,000 Bonus and Other Benefits for Being a Florida Police Officer
Another major incentive for being a police officer in Florida is that recently Governor Ron DeSantis announced new legislation that newly employed law enforcement officers will receive a $5,000 bonus for becoming a police officer in Florida, according to WSTP News in Tampa. This bonus is in addition to the $1,000 bonus Florida police officers have already received over the past two years.
In a press briefing regarding the new $5,000 bonus, Governor DeSantis stated: “We’ve stood for this being a noble profession. We want to support the folks who are protecting us.” For experienced police officers in cities and agencies that have been impacted financially, this incentive may be very attractive.
According to WSTP News, the new legislation from DeSantis provides additional benefits:
- An educational scholarship for police trainees
- A reimbursement program to help police officers with training costs associated with relocating to the state
- An exemption for veterans and college graduates with an associate degree from taking the basic skills test that is otherwise required before entering recruitment
Florida Makes It Easy for Other Police Officers to Transfer
Florida also makes it easy for other police officers from other states and the federal government to transfer and work as a police officer in Florida through the Equivalency of Training process. This process enables out-of-state officers, federal officers and previously certified Florida officers who had a four-year gap in service to become state-certified without having to attend the full basic recruit academy.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, officers may be exempt from the basic training requirements if they were an out-of-state officers or in federal law enforcement. Applicants must meet these standards:
- The police officer must have worked at least one year as a full-time, sworn officer.
- The police officer must have received training in that discipline comparable to Florida’s full basic recruit curriculum or must have previously completed Florida’s full basic recruit training program and received certification in Florida.
- The officer must have no more than an eight-year break in service since the latest separation from a sworn position.
Eligible officers who desire to work in Florida will need to apply, demonstrate their proficiency in high-liability areas and pass the Florida certification test.
Don’t Forget to Do Your Research
It’s essential to remember that different geographic areas in Florida have a major impact on agency culture and operations. If you are interested in becoming a Florida police officer, research agencies and communities to ensure that where you plan to seek work would be a good fit based on your background and experience.