Over the past several months, numerous police officers with allegations of misconduct have received bonuses through a program approved under Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to a May 21 article from Daily Dot.
Some of the allegations haven’t been officially proven, but others have been substantiated. It’s scary news given recent events in Florida, and the police officers who committed these crimes should be punished, not rewarded.
The bonuses are a result of House Bill 3, which was passed last year. The bill would allow new officers to receive bonuses of up to $5,000, as well as reimbursement payments of $1,000, for officers who are moving from another state to Florida, through a process known as the “Be A Florida Hero initiative,” according to a 2022 statement from DeSantis’ website.
With these funds combined, several law enforcement workers received almost $7,000.
Several of these officers have been accused of committing serious crimes in the past and some are even currently under investigation.
Chloe Davidson of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department was charged with First Degree Felony Homicide after fatally shooting her husband. The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office stated that there was no evidence implying that she acted in self-defense in a Jan. 2 interview with Wear TV.
Although her charges are still pending, she still received the $7,000 bonus.
Daniel Meblin was part of a lawsuit (Lester, Nicholas vs City of New York et al) for allegedly assaulting and arresting an African-American Black Lives Matter protester in 2020, causing multiple injuries, according to the 2022 court document. The settlement cost $160,000, according to Daily Dot.
He was also accused of committing sexual misconduct toward a Black person aged between 15-17, but the complaint was listed as “unavailable,” according to 50-a, a database that tracks complaints of NYPD personnel.
Meblin now works for The Palm Beach Police Department, who confirmed that they hired him in spite of being aware of his sexual misconduct allegation, according to Daily Dot. He also received nearly $7,000, according to a list from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Mistreatment of African Americans in Florida has resulted in the NAACP labeling the state as “openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ individuals”’ in a May 20 press release. Rewarding police officers who have been accused of racist attacks in the past will only worsen discrimination toward Florida’s Black community.
USF has also had its own allegations of police brutality, as four members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and a USF employee have accused campus officers of using “excessive force” before arresting them during a protest.
Brittany Gordon, an officer of USF’s Caribbean Cultural Exchange club, said police officers who received bonuses under DeSantis’ program are a threat to communities in the state.
“People of color, especially members of the Black community, should remain vigilant, and always remember the goal is to survive to tell your story so our voices will matter. It is a creation of the environment that enables and allows discrimination, harassment and abuse of women and non-white groups,” said Gordon in a June 5 interview with The Oracle.
If an officer with a similarly shady past like that of Davidson or Meblin were to join the USF police force, then it could result in more issues like this, making USF unsafe for students.
Seeing officers rewarded for such heinous actions is strange when one takes into consideration a trial that is currently being prepared.
Scot Petterson, former Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy, currently has many charges for his alleged inability to confront the shooter of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School back in 2018, according to a May 30 article from The Associated Press. Jury selection for that case began on May 31.
While Petterson hasn’t been proven guilty yet, the trial shows a level of responsibility and care for the justice of this state that isn’t being taken into consideration with these officers.
If one police officer who may not have done his job properly is facing criminal punishment, then officers who have committed similar crimes shouldn’t be rewarded.