Speaking in the parking lot of the Tampa office of the Florida Dept. of Highway Patrol with about a dozen FHP officers standing behind him, Rick Scott made the case for the Legislature to get behind his proposal to give all sworn law enforcement officers a five percent pay raise in his 2017-2018 budget.
“The brave men and women who serve Florida as members of our state law enforcement agencies work hard everyday to make Florida the safest place to live and raise a family, and they deserve to be rewarded with their live saving work,” said Scott.
The Governor first announced his proposal to allocate $11.7 million for a pay raise for law enforcement officers in a statement issued last Thursday, but this was his first time to speak directly to reporters about it.
Approximately half of the 4,000 officers who would receive the pay hike for Florida Highway Patrol officers who currently have a starting salary of $33,977 a year.
“For us to be able to retain and recruit the best of the best, which is what the citizens of this state deserve, this is going to go a long way in helping this,” said Gene Spaulding, the director of the FHP. “Most of these state officers aren’t doing this job for the money. But we do have a responsibility as administrators for them to be able to take care of their famiiles in a way that they can do so effectively.”
“The governor’s proposal will allow the Fish & Wildlife Commission to more effectively recruit law enforcement and retain those same law enforcement officers to serve the citizens of Florida,” echoed FWC law enforcement director Colonel Curtis Brown.
“This is a very dangerous job. “We’re at an all-time high nationwide for law enforcement officers deaths” said Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen. “The Governor is always shoulder to shoulder with us, whether it’s a fire emergency, a hurricane response, or an incident like Pulse, he has always been there for us.”
The one law enforcement agency that isn’t included in the pay raise proposal are officers working with the Dept. of Corrections. Scott acknowledged that omission, saying that he’ll continue to look at the budget and “we’ll have additional announcements.”
But he said that he had no qualms that the Legislature should be able to find the money for the pay increases.
“Let’s look at the numbers,” he told reporters after his formal remarks. “We have about 350,000 people move here every year. We have added 1,233,000 jobs in five years and 7 months. We have record tourism numbers so, it’s incumbent upon us to have the legislature allocate those dollars to…focus on keeping people safe and giving them a good education, and then provide the safety nets that are citizens expect.”
At the event, Scott also singled out attention to Trooper Robert Ducker, giving him the Governor’s Medal of Heroism for his “outstanding courage in the face of grave danger.”
While assisting a disabled vehicle, Ducker was notified by a passerby of an accident that had occurred off I-275. Upon arriving at the scene, Trooper Ducker found a single vehicle had crashed into a tree, knocking the driver unconscious and causing the vehicle to catch fire. After unsuccessfully attempting to break the window of the car with a window punch, Ducker used his fist to break through the window, reach the driver and pull them to safety, saving the driver’s life.