LAKELAND, Fla. - If you wear a badge on the streets of New York City, chances are you’ve heard that recruiters from Lakeland, Florida have been shopping for cops.
Lakeland’s assistant police chief, Hans Lehman said the department has recruited everywhere – from social media to in-person in Times Square.
Word spread so well that 13 former NYPD officers have arrived in Lakeland. Some say, at least partly, because of anti-police sentiment in New York.
"I would say there is anti-police sentiment," says former NYPD officer Ryan Riveron. "But then, by the same token, there’s still a good amount of people that want us there in New York. The thing is, they weren’t the loudest, they weren’t the people on TV every day and that was the problem."
Governor Ron DeSantis is proposing the state pay a $5,000 bonus to officers who find greener pastures in Florida.
When the governor visited Lakeland last month, former NYPD officer Matthew Spoto recounted something one of the Lakeland recruiters said to him.
"He said, ‘You can park your police vehicle in front of your house,’ and to me, that was mind-blowing. I used to lie about what I did. I used to tell people I was a bartender. I was ashamed to be a law enforcement officer," Spoto said.
The new recruits in Lakeland are betting they won’t be the last.
"We have fellow officers in New York and they’re considering the move with the current political climate, a lot of people are thinking about coming down to Florida," says former NYPD officer Jamie Smith.
Lakeland police officials say because the NYPD recruits are already certified police officers, only half the training is required, getting them to the streets sooner.
It’s a fast solution to Lakeland’s police shortage, importing officers straight from the streets of Gotham.