With just over two months remaining on a contract with the vendor that manages the state law enforcement radio system (SLERS), and less than two weeks left in the 2021 Legislative Session to address the situation, Florida’s Police Benevolent Association is urging lawmakers to resolve the issue once and for all. The system provides a statewide communication network used by a number of state law enforcement agencies and first responders.
But a contract with the vendor that manages the program, L3Harris Technologies, is set to expire at the end of June, which would require the state to take over and manage the critical communications system just as hurricane season gets underway. Lawmakers and state agencies have worked for years to address the issue. Last year, the state awarded a $679 million contract to Motorola Communications to build a new system, but the company walked away from the deal, leaving law enforcement agencies across the state in limbo.
Last weekend, lawmakers set aside millions of dollars in the state budget to help maintain the system and upgrade police radio handsets, but the fate of the systemwide management contract remains murky and time is growing short.
“We are encouraged by the funding the legislature has added to the budget for SLERS”, said PBA Executive Director Matt Puckett. “At this point It is critical to find a solution with the current vendor before the contract expires at the end of June. First responders need to have certainty with SLERS. We remain hopeful that our front line officers will continue to have a reliable communications system along with new radios in hand soon.
The comments come on the heels of a report released last week by TaxWatch that also urged lawmakers to renew the contract with the current vendor, which would provide the greatest continuity and reduce the chances of a major problem hindering first responders in what TaxWatch called the most important mission of state government, public safety, especially during the summer storm season.
“Florida TaxWatch believes it is in the best interest of all Floridians for DMS and L3Harris to extend the current SLERS agreement through the end of FY 2025-26,” the group wrote in a study of the procurement process released earlier this month.
The current contract expires June 30th, 2021. The TaxWatch study expressed doubts the state “will be prepared to assume full ownership of SLERS on July 1, 2021.”