WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Turns out, the state of Florida is reaching westward to Chicago, in search of police officers.
In the midst of an election year, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a new billboard campaign to recruit law enforcement from Illinois through a bonus program, referencing Chicago as an area where he says, "crime rates are soaring."
The governor's office said the campaign is in response to recent changes in Illinois. Namely, the announcement some non-citizens can work as police, so long as they are both legally authorized to work and carry a firearm. In addition to, the move to eliminate the state's cash bail system.
"We stand behind our citizen officers, and we give them the tools to succeed professionally and personally. 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," the news release said.
Kevin Wagner, a professor of political science, said that this is an election year and politics are at play.
"If you are trying to make some headway in a campaign," he said, "then trying to illustrate to people that you are tough on crime and supportive of law enforcement is usually a pretty good approach."
DeSantis and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker have been going back and forth on social media in recent days over these very issues. WPTV contacted Pritzker's office for his response to the billboards seen around the city and received a statement that said in part:
“It doesn’t surprise us that Ron DeSantis must offer a $5,000 signing bonus to attract more police officers to Florida. After all, officers in the Sunshine State have to contend with permit-less carry laws that allow anyone who wants a deadly weapon to carry one without a universal background check, putting officers at risk.”
The statement continued in part:
“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.”
Wagner said this sort of approach is commonplace during an election year.
"A lot of campaigning is what we like to call contrasting or contrast ads, which is often a nicer way of saying, trying to illustrate how you are different from your opponents and the choices and policies that you would implement," he said. "This gives the governor a chance to suggest this is how I would be different from the governor of Illinois or how law enforcement is handled in Illinois."