“Florida’s selection of Motorola Solutions to build a new statewide public safety radio system is a vote of confidence in our decades of successfully building mission-critical communications solutions throughout the state and nation,” the Chicago-based company said Tuesday in a prepared statement.
“Motorola Solutions is thrilled at the opportunity to work with the State of Florida and eager to deliver state-of-the-art interoperable communications to the state’s first responders and the people they protect throughout Florida.”
The state decided to part ways with Harris Corp., which now has the contract, largely due to concerns over spotty or failed service as well as problems with encryption meant to lock out non-law enforcement radios from being able to listen. Problems with communication gear have led to the deaths of several officers across the country.
Harris has held the SLERS contract, estimated to cost the state upward of $18 million a year, since Sept. 2000.
The awarding of the deal concludes almost three years of bureaucratic and legislative infighting, with some lawmakers — often benefiting from political contributions — backing one side over the other.
Among dozens of lobbyists involved, Motorola had Southern Strategy Group on its side; Harris retained Brian Ballard of Ballard Partners.
The system, known as SLERS, is “a single, unified digital radio network that meets the radio voice communications needs of state law enforcement officers and other participating agencies throughout the state,” according to the Department of Management Services.
It “covers over 60,000 square miles (including 25 miles offshore) with 98 percent mobile coverage and portable coverage in selected areas,” the department’s website says.
The goal “is to provide state law enforcement personnel with a shared radio system. The current system serves over 20,500 radios in patrol cars, boats, motorcycles and aircraft throughout the state.”
Sunshine State News chronicled the travails of the system under Harris, based in Melbourne, including the “bad experience” the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had with the firm involving a similar system.
“After two decades, hundreds of millions of wasted dollars, and problems that never did get fixed, (Pennsylvania) kicked (Harris) off the job,” Nancy Smith wrote last March.
In Florida, it “had multimillion-dollar ’emergency’ contracts approved for radio upgrades, even though no law enforcement agency … requested them,” she wrote.
Moreover, then-House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and former Melbourne Rep. Ritch Workman, who supported Harris, “made sure the company got a $7 million emergency contract as the last order of budget business in the 2016 legislative session.” Workman’s district included Harris HQ and Crisafulli also represented Brevard County.
The 2016 emergency contract came after a prior $7 million appropriation awarded during the 2015 Legislative Session, which raised the eyebrows of lawmakers.
The extra payments were on top of Harris’ contract, and mainly went toward purchasing portable units for various law enforcement agencies, including $4.7 million worth of units for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission in fiscal year 2016.