(The Center Square) – Citing a hostile work environment in a city whose leadership has turned its back on the blue, and refusing to comply with a city vaccine mandate, at least 14 NYPD officers have left New York City for a Tampa Bay area town.
The majority moved within two months of Gov. Ron DeSantis pledging to give a $5,000 bonus to law enforcement officers who relocate to Florida in a proposal he rolled out in September. In addition to the $5,000 signing bonus, officers would receive relocation support.
Last month, DeSantis told Fox News he was "actively working to recruit" officers from other states to fill needs in police and sheriff's departments. He particularly welcomed law enforcement personnel who risked losing their jobs for defying city and state COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The National Fraternal Order of Police has vehemently opposed the vaccine mandate. In a letter written to officers, its president said, "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.”
DeSantis hopes to make the proposal official in the next legislative session. He said he hopes to “sign legislation that gives a $5,000 bonus to any out-of-state law enforcement officer who relocates in Florida.
“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," the governor said.
DeSantis, who has publicly opposed the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates and led the charge suing over the federal employee mandate, said, "Nobody should lose their job based off these injections. It's a choice you can make, but we want to make sure we're protecting your jobs and your livelihood."
So far, 14 NYPD officers relocated to the Lakeland Police Department, with 12 relocating in the last two months, the New York Post reported.
The police department had recently begun a recruiting campaign in New York to woo officers to the town of roughly 112,000 residents northeast of Tampa – where the New York Yankees call home for spring training.
Those officers leave a department with a starting salary of $42,500 and with one of the highest tax rates in the nation. But moving to Florida, where Lakeland Police Department’s starting salary is $53,000, according to The Ledger, they’ll take home more pay since they’ll be paying less in taxes in a state with no personal income tax.
Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch told the New York Post that NYPD officers were “voting with their feet.”
“'Many New York City cops are weighing our sub-standard salary against the ever-increasing challenges, scrutiny and abuse, and they're voting with their feet,” he said.
According to Police Benevolent Association data, the number of NYPD officers who left the force early before their 20-year retirement period more than doubled in 2021, with 1,051 leaving last year compared to 509 the year before.