Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Sunday he hopes to sign legislation that awards $5,000 bonuses to out-of-state law enforcement who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in violation of local vaccine mandates and move to Florida to work there instead.
DeSantis said in an interview with Fox News that the state is "actively working to recruit" officers from outside of Florida to fill needs in police and sheriff's departments, and he welcomes law enforcement personnel who risk losing their jobs for defying city and state COVID-19 vaccine requirements.
"In the next legislative session, I'm going to hopefully sign legislation that gives a $5,000 bonus to any out of state law enforcement that relocates in Florida," he told Fox News. "NYPD, Minneapolis, Seattle, if you're not being treated well, we'll treat you better here: you fill important needs for us, and we'll compensate you as a result."
DeSantis, a Republican, said he believes many officers have already become infected with COVID-19, which is driving their decisions not to get vaccinated against the virus.
"Nobody should lose their job based off these injections," he said. "It's a choice you can make, but we want to make sure we're protecting your jobs and your livelihood."
Leaders of several large cities and states have imposed vaccine mandates on public workers, including first responders, leaving them with the choice to either get their shots or be terminated.
In Chicago, more than one-third of its nearly 13,000-member police force are defying the city's mandate to report their vaccination status, and in Seattle, six police officers and 11 firefighters faced termination after its vaccine mandate went into effect October 18, while another 93 police and 66 firefighters were seeking exemptions to the requirement.
In Massachusetts, its 42,000 state workers were required to be fully vaccinated by October 17, and the state's police union estimated at least 150 state police officers will resign over the mandate. New York City, too, is requiring first responders and municipal workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be placed on unpaid leave, prompting a lawsuit from the New York City Police Benevolent Association.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund found COVID-19 related deaths accounted for more law enforcement deaths last year than all other causes combined.
In a letter to officers, the head of the National Fraternal Order of Police urged officers to "seriously consider receiving the vaccine to protect themselves and others from becoming seriously ill," but noted that the group believes individual officers should be free to decide whether to get vaccinated.
"As an organization that prides itself on protecting the freedoms afforded to us by the U.S Constitution, we are vehemently opposed to any suggestion of a vaccine mandate from any organization, employer or government agency," Patrick Yoes, president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, wrote in a letter to officers.
DeSantis first rolled out a proposal in September to bolster recruitment of new law enforcement officers to Florida, which includes a $5,000 signing bonus to officers joining the profession, as well as relocation support for officers moving to the state.