Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis launches billboards in Chicago area offering $5,000 signing bonus to Illinois police officers who relocate

Ron DeSantis
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

In an effort to recruit Illinois police officers to the Sunshine State, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a program that offers a $5,000 signing bonus to out-of-state police officers who relocate to Florida while launching billboards in the Chicago area to promote the effort.

While the program applies to all out-of-state police officers, DeSantis singled out Illinois in his press release announcing the program, drawing contrast between Florida and Illinois throughout his statement.

DeSantis specifically mentioned the recently upheld SAFE-T Act and House Bill 3751 as reasons for the effort in his statement, legislation that removes cash bail in Illinois and allows non-citizens who are eligible to work in the U.S. and carry firearms become police officers, respectively.

According to DeSantis, "more than 37" law enforcement recruits from Illinois now work in Florida, with over 2,300 officers receiving signing bonuses, totaling to over $15 million since the start of the program.

"Other states deputize non-citizens, enact policies that favor criminals over victims, and work to overtly or covertly defund the police, but not in Florida. I look forward to welcoming the Illinois men and women in blue to the law-and-order state," DeSantis said in his statement.

Responding to a request for comment from NBC Chicago, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he was unsurprised by the program, arguing that Florida's gun laws make the Sunshine State a more dangerous place to be a police officer.

Pritzker also said that moving to Florida "only guarantees a lower average wage for police officers statewide compared to Illinois."

"A one-time signing bonus for new officers in Florida doesn’t erase the danger women, immigrants, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community caught in the crosshairs of Ron DeSantis’ culture wars face when moving to that state. It doesn’t erase the fact that moving your family to Florida means guaranteeing your children a lower-quality education that repaints history with racist dog whistles or that residents are priced out of basic flood insurance for their homes," Pritzker said in his statement.

Responding to DeSantis' criticism of the SAFE-T Act, in which he called the legislation taking effect on Monday an example of a "disastrous bail reform policy," Pritzker defended the legislation he has long championed.

"Right now, there are alleged murdererschild sex offenders, and abusers who are out on the streets of Florida because they have enough money to buy their way out of jail. Florida’s “robust bail bonds program” isn’t doing too well at keeping dangerous criminals off the street, but in Illinois, those criminals won’t have the ability to buy their way out," Pritzker said.

As for the billboards themselves, Pritzker said that residents would be unfazed while welcoming the investment into the state.

"Illinoisans can see right through this lame attempt to get headlines, but if Ron wants to spend Floridian’s tax dollars on Illinois billboards, we will gladly take his money," Pritzker said.

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