Governor Rick Scott highlighted increases in law enforcement pay while admitting that more needed to be done during a visit to Fort Myers on Monday.
Scott signed the five percent increase for all sworn officers into law last month as part of a bill that raised the pay of state workers across the board. The governor credited the state’s ability to raise law enforcement pay to economic growth and budget discipline while standing in front of a crowd of officers, agents, and troopers from Southwest Florida.
“This is what happens when instead of having a state that constantly runs a deficit, you have a state, because you turned around your economy, you can invest more in the things that people care about,” said Scott. “We’re at a 46-year low in our crime rate. It’s because of all the individuals up here and around the state that are doing a great job taking care of us and solving problems each and every day.”
Scott also emphasized the importance of effective law enforcement in drawing tourists and entrepreneurs to the state.
“No one moves their companies to a place where it’s not safe. No one wants to live in neighborhoods that aren’t safe.”
Pay still remains a major issue when recruiting officers for state law enforcement agencies, however. Even after the five percent increase, which brings starting pay for a Florida State Trooper from $33,977 to $36,223 a year, compensation still lags behind surrounding states. Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana all pay their state troopers more than Florida’s base salary.
In addition to other states, FHP also has to contend with local sheriff and police departments that often offer better pay and benefits, further draining the pool of law enforcement candidates. As of June, FHP had over 200 vacancies statewide in sworn positions. Troopers in Lee and Collier County can receive a bonus of about $400 a month for serving in an area deemed a “critical market”, yet despite the additional incentives Troop F, which serves the area from Alligator Alley up to Sarasota County, had 44 vacancies alone.
When Scott was asked if he believed the raises would be enough to attract and retain enough troopers to fill those vacancies, he said that he hoped that continued growth in the economy would allow for further increases but that it was important the state not overextend on budget issues.
“I think every time we have an opportunity to provide a pay raise it makes sense. You would always like to do more but you’ve also got to live within your budgets,” Scott said.
© 2017 Naples Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.