Vowing to do everything he can to prevent another terrorist attack like the June 12 Pulse nightclub massacre, Gov. Rick Scott pushed for nearly $6 million to create a new counter-terrorism and law enforcement intelligence task force in Florida.
“Terror, like we saw in the attack on the Pulse nightclub, is a threat to our state, our nation and each of us,” Scott said in announcing the proposal at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Orlando Regional Operations Center Wednesday. “We need specialists who are solely dedicated to identify these terrorists and stopping them before they can attack.”
Joined by other law enforcement leaders including Orlando Police Chief John Mina, Scott and FDLE Commissioner Richard Swearingen outlined plans to seek $5.8 million in this year’s budget to hire 46 anti-terrorist specialists who would be divided into eight units and assigned to work with the eight joint anti-terrorism task forces coordinated in Florida by federal authorities.
The new positions would include 38 anti-terrorism special agents and eight crime intelligence analysts. He said the new positions would be in addition to anti-terrorism efforts the agency already has. But he said the current efforts sometimes require agents to be pulled off from other units on an ad-hoc basis and the new positions would better assure that full-time anti-terrorism officials are pursuing terrorists.
Swearingen said the current threat environment has “seen a vast expansion in terrorism relate threats in recent years and our federal law enforcement partners – who do a great job – have said they do not have sufficient resources to combat the spread of terrorism on their own,” he said. “This must be a collaborative effort of federal, state and local law enforcement.”
The budget request, of course, will have to survive in one form or another the Florida Legislature’s budget-writing. Two lawmakers present with Scott Wednesday, state Reps. Mike Miller of Orlando and Bob Cortes of Longwood, both spoke positively about the proposal Wednesday. Both are Republicans.
Miller, a member of the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, said he looks forward to championing anti-terrorism money this spring. Cortes said a recent national anti-terrorism symposium he attended has him convinced of the need and said $5.8 million is “not a big ask.”
“We live in a very difficult time, and we’re going to do everything we can to help keep everyone safe,” Scott said.
On Thursday, House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa said she shared Scott’s “commitment to ensuring that our law enforcement community has the resources necessary for counterterrorism to ensure that another tragedy like the massacre at Pulse nightclub never occurs again.”
“While this critical investment will allow the state to better monitor and prevent acts of terror, it is my hope this is one part of a conversation about passing meaningful reforms that keep weapons from falling into the hands of dangerous criminals and those suffering from mental illness who seek to inflict violence upon Floridians,” she said in a statement.