The law enforcement task force responsible for oversight of Florida’s Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) is sounding alarm bells with state lawmakers as the legislature works toward the first pass at a state budget for 2021. In identical letters sent to House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson, the task force warned that many of their police radios “frequently need repair and replacement parts that are difficult to acquire or are no longer available.”
The letters, signed by the current director of Florida’s Highway Patrol, Colonel Gene Spaulding, acknowledge the budget challenges facing state lawmakers in the wake of the pandemic, but nevertheless urges them to renew an existing contract with L3Harris Technologies, Inc., that is set to expire in June. The company or its subsidiaries has maintained the system since 1999. Spaulding also urged lawmakers to fund the purchase of replacement radio handsets for law enforcement officers in the field.
“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,” Spaulding said in the letter. “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.”
The letters were sent just days before one of the state’s leading taxpayer advocacy groups, Florida TaxWatch, issued a report focusing on the state’s procurement process and the current status with the police radio system. One item of note in the report points to a possible “breach of trust and good faith” by Motorola when they objected to specific contract language they had previously agreed to in their bid for the project.
With only three weeks left in session and a number of issues still unresolved, the law enforcement radio situation remains one of the thornier problems that needs a solution. The TaxWatch report concludes with a recommendation they suggest is “in the best interest of all Floridians:” to extend the current SLERS agreement with the current vendor through the end of FY 2025-26.”