As the Florida Legislature grapples with finalizing a budget, there is another funding debate happening besides just the future of indigent health care in the state.
Lawmakers have proposed $1 million to open a competitive bid process next year for the state’s Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS). Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott last week supporting moving forward with the bid process.
Since mid-2000s agencies, including PCSO, have upgraded to the “next generation technology,” P25. They’ve done so by using federal grant money and local taxpayer dollars.
“The upgraded system allows for reliable radio interoperability, which is critical for officer safety and efficient law enforcement services,” Gualtieri wrote. “Officers on the street need to be able to communicate with each other.”
Pinellas has 11 different law enforcement agencies. Ten of the agencies using the new system also cannot communicate with the Florida Highway Patrol or other state law enforcement agencies currently operated by the outdated SLERS.
In his letter to Gov. Scott, Gualtieri argues the new system should be designed to enhance portability and outdoor coverage in order to encourage more law enforcement agencies to participate in the program.
Doing so, he argues, would spread the cost of the upgrade across more agencies. Gualtieri said the state should partner with all local government P25 systems “as a more cost effective way to provide portable/handheld radio coverage.”
Gualtieri references a Business Case Study supporting a statewide upgrade and sites success stories from other states.
“They all have focused on things like … reducing the total spend of state and local agencies by eliminating duplication of radio service at the state and local level,” Gualtieri wrote. “Local government participation on the network is so high there is little duplication of radio infrastructure between the state and the local governments.”
That, Gualitieri said, means lower overall operational costs per user.
Gualtieri thanks, in advance, both the governor and Legislature for including funding in the budget to upgrade the state system.
The current vendor operating SLERS, Harris Corp., is seeking to avoid a competitive procurement as its current contract set to expire in 2021. They argue they can make the same upgrade for cheaper and without risk of disruption of service.
The current contract covers about 4,000 law enforcement personnel. It was signed in 2000.