Growing number of Chicago Police officers are taking up Florida on invitation to move
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Florida isn't just for snowbirds anymore.
The state is pushing Chicago Police officers down south – and is using more than just weather as an incentive.
As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was doing some of the recruitment himself on Monday. DeSantis spoke at an invitation-only event at an Elmhurst banquet hall - encouraging Chicago Police officers to leave Illinois and come work at departments in Florida.
On Tuesday, we learned growing number of Chicago Police officers have already taken DeSantis up on it.
"We have this recruitment program in place," DeSantis said at the Elmhurst event on Monday. "If you come and you're qualified from another a state and join any of our agencies - city, county, state sworn law enforcement - you get a $5,000 signing bonus immediately right off the top."
By the end of 2022, more than 600 police officers from other states had taken advantage of Florida's relocation incentives.
"Their morale is very low," DeSantis said. "We in Florida have an opportunity to capitalize off that."
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department alone recently added eight former Chicago cops. Officer Matthew Molitor went to St. Petersburg.
"I'm from the Midwest," Molitor said. "I'm from the Quad cities originally."
Molitor worked in the Near West (12th) and Town Hall (19th) Chicago Police districts for more than four years. He said he did not need much convincing when he left for the St. Petersburg Police Department in March.
"If you can't staff, then you can't put enough officers on the street - and therefore, that's where your 12-hour days; your canceled days off are coming from," Molitor said. "Yeah, morale is definitely going to suffer."
Officer Molitor said morale is a big issue at the CPD.
That is also why former Miami Police officer turned moving and storage company owner Spero Georgedakis began running commercials in Chicago at the beginning of each month – urging Chicago Police officers to head south.
"I thought, let me help not only promote the program, but help these police officers move to Florida safely, and get their families here," said Georgedakis, of Good Greek Moving & Storage.
And in just the past three weeks, Georgedakis says they have had a number of inquiries - which he expects to turn into full relocations to the Sunshine State.
"They feel like they're not being appreciated," Georgedakis said.
Officer Molitor said he won't be surprised if more of his fellow Chicago colleagues come join him.
"Down here it seems like, 'Hey, we want you guys,' and they're getting quality over quantity in Florida," he said.
We did reach out to the CPD and the Mayor's office for comment on the relocation efforts, which appear to be ramping up recently. As of late Tuesday, there had been no response.
In addition to the $5,000 signing bonus, Florida also offers as much as $25,000 for adoption costs and $25,000 to help relocating officers buy a new home.