With lawmakers working overtime this weekend to hammer out roughly $2 billion worth of budget differences between the House and Senate, one of the potential bright spots is the statewide law enforcement radio system (SLERS). House leaders included millions of dollars for continued operations of the system, while the Senate also appears to be getting serious about making sure SLERS continues to operate.
The mission-critical system has been in limbo since last year while the state had to decide between taking over management of the existing system, or renewing a contract with L3Harris to maintain it and upgrade a number of police radio handsets. That dilemma came about after Motorola Communications walked away from a $679 million contract that took years to procure and left state leaders scrambling for a workable solution to keep the state’s first responders connected.
Earlier this month, a joint task force of statewide law enforcement leaders urged House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson to renew the contract with L3Harris and allocate additional funding for new radios.
“It would not be an exaggeration to assert that Florida’s first responders and the public will be at risk should they be required to go another year with obsolete equipment or without a fully functional and properly maintained radio system,” said Colonel Gene Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “The State Law Enforcement Radio System Joint Task Force respectfully and strongly urges the members of the Florida Legislature to support Florida’s state law enforcement agencies’ fiscal year 2021-22 funding requests for land mobile radio equipment and the ongoing operation of the current radio system.”
By late Saturday evening, It appeared that those law enforcement leaders had been persuasive. Lawmakers have allocated funding so that L3Harris can ensure that SLERS remains in place and reliable for the foreseeable future.
That very reliability is one of the system’s selling points. Built more than two decades earlier, the SLERS project turned out to be one of the most successful public-private partnerships in Florida history. Over the last 10 years it’s been through 15 hurricanes and 10 tropical storms and has never gone offline.