(The Center Square) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued a proclamation declaring the week of May 11-17 as National Police Week.
He’s expanded on a tradition begun by former president John F. Kennedy, who in October 1962 first designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day.
The Florida Capitol will be lit blue all week to recognize those who serve in law enforcement and those who’ve lost their lives in the line of duty.
“In Florida, we back the blue,” DeSantis said. “While some states talk about defunding the police, we fund the police and then some because we respect the work they do to keep all of us safe. This week, we honor the men, women, and their families who have dedicated their lives to protecting our communities.”
Last month, DeSantis signed into law the strongest law enforcement recruitment and support initiative in the nation. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has also launched several initiatives to show support for those in law enforcement throughout the state, including Back the Blue, the Thin Line Tribute, Be A Hero Initiative, among other initiatives.
There are about 53,000 Floridians serving in law enforcement statewide.
When movements across the country began to defund police departments, DeSantis invited police officers to move to Florida and offered them a range of incentives. The state legislature backed the plan, authorizing funding in the budget.
One incentive includes the newly created Florida Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Payment Program, which provides signing bonuses of up to $5,000 to newly employed law enforcement officers in Florida. Another is the newly created Florida Law Enforcement Academy Scholarship Program, which covers tuition, fees, and up to $1,000 of eligible education expenses for trainees enrolled in a law enforcement officer basic recruit training program.
Law enforcement officers who relocate to Florida or members of special operations forces who become full-time law enforcement officers will also receive up to $1,000 of eligible equivalency training costs.
The governor and legislature also focused on ways to support law enforcement officers’ dependent children. Under the new law, they are now eligible to receive a Family Empowerment Scholarship to attend private schools. Also, those who adopt through the state’s child welfare system are also able to receive financial support. Those who adopt will receive $10,000 per child, and $25,000 if the child has special needs, according to the new law.
DeSantis’ efforts came after more than double the number of Florida police officers were killed in the line-of-duty in 2020 than they were in 2019. It also came after more police officers nationwide died in 2021 than in any other year such fatalities were recorded, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported.
In 2021, unprovoked attacks against officers continued to outpace all other circumstances of felonious officer deaths, the FBI found.
“Every felonious attack on a law enforcement officer, especially by gunfire, is disturbing regardless of the circumstances,” the FOP said in its report. “Officers are always susceptible to life-threatening attacks and therefore must always be vigilant and maintain the highest level of situational awareness. In most cases, officers are able to quickly assess situations, recognize threats, and take adequate defensive actions. Tragically, not every threat can be seen or mitigated.”
Last year, there were 617 total line of duty deaths nationwide, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
In the last roughly 100 years, according to the data, there have been 920 line of duty deaths in Florida. Nearly half were killed by gunfire. The next greatest number combined died in vehicle-related deaths, including crashes, being struck by a vehicle, or as a result of vehicular pursuit or assault.