Motorola Solutions awarded Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System contract - Florida Politics

Motorola Solutions awarded Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System contract

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Florida has decided to go with Motorola Solutions, awarding them a contract potentially worth hundred of millions of dollars to take over the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System.

“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, due, in part, 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 been raided by various law enforcement agencies.

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, with Mercer Fearington quarterbacking the firm’s efforts; 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.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

14 Comments

  1. Amazing how the Harris system is characterized as barely able to handle so much as 1 conversation while the Motorola system can leap tall buildings in a single bound!

    Totally fair and balanced.

  2. At least you now see how a Motorola system will work…It will be like superman showed up. Just ask Las Vegas, they dumped harris and went with Motorola and LOVE it…PA will soon follow…..Oh yea and NY awarded harris a 1 Billion statewide contract just to snach it back when Harris could not get 1 small test part to work…Go with the proven leader and best system from the start and get something great.

  3. It is WRONG how the SLERS system has been fully encrypted for many many years. What and why are they hiding from the public? They need to turn off the encryption as THE PEOPLE should have a right to monitor what their tax dollars pay for.

  4. Harris had to EOL (End-of-Life) some of their radio systems (like Open Sky) because they were so terrible. Their systems are so “secure” even the system users can’t hear them!

  5. I installed these systems back in the early 2000’s. They were junk when they were installed. Had issues with encryption from the get go. We could not remove the old analog systems from the vehicles until the entire system was up and running, and certified. They also had some manufacturing issues that required a bunch of rework across the state.
    The Motorola system will be a huge improvement. I spent a year and a half installing those systems in Virginia. The network was already running, and we could remove the old crappy analog systems and replace with a much smaller Motorola radio.

    To the person who thinks there should there shouldn’t be any encryption, you must think that it’s OK for the people who are breaking the law can listen in, plan and evade using information gained from eavesdropping on police communications. Sounds like a good idea to me…

  6. Motorola’s 90 YEARS of innovation is the difference maker. Rugged equipment and solutions that “just work” when it matters most.

  7. We just got a new P25 Harris system in my county and we have great coverage. From what I learned politics don’t wanna listen to the engineers who are “experts” in how to build the system to get the best coverage. I’m sure someone is getting a cutback from this somehow.

    1. @Eric, how many $millions in change orders and added sites did Harris have to add to get decent coverage. How many years behind schedule were they? Seems to be their MO.

      1. In many cases the customer provided inaccurate, incomplete, and often unverified information that was used for the engineering. When the correct information was exposed, change orders were then required to attempt to “fix” the situation. However, due to the close integration of system components these days, it is possible to have an almost “un-fixable” situation that under current social norms must be blamed on someone other than ourselves.

  8. There’s a big difference between a county system and a statewide interoperable, multiple jurisdiction, cross discipline system. Not many vendors can gracefully deliver statewide interoperable emergency communications systems, P25 or otherwise. It’s not just system, trunks, and radios – which is what vendors like Harris or Motorola actually bring to the table; but the efficacy of the entire statewide platform performance relies upon the placement, number, type, and size of towers, a process of field engineering at which manufacturers like Motorola and Harris are not exactly subject matter experts, in my experience. Failure of these projects, especially lack of coverage, is a tower issue, not a system issue. States should hire 3rd party engineering firms to coordinate tower network design and stop relying on equipment manufacturers to deliver outside their area of expertise. Encryption failures typically occur when radio encryption standards are not met and/or best practices guidelines are not followed, of which not meeting radio encryption standards is a known issue among some manufacturers radios, Motorola included (P25 CAP provides guidance on this). Compliance to encryption best practices unfortunately falls upon statewide interoperable system governing authority to make policy, and users to willingly follow – it’s not always easy to enforce encryption best practices on a statewide level, as best practices are not programmable objects (as of yet), and compliance cannot be measured via the system(s). We definitely need more administrative sophistication in the encryption space in radio communications systems for public safety.

  9. You’re wrong about encryption. All it does is reduce coverage area. Massachusetts has a statewide un-encrypted system and it *helped* when looking for the terrorists because people *could* listen and help law enforcement with all the extra eyes. I have actually picked up foot patrolmen to chase bank robbers in my personal vehicle because *I* was aware of the situation because of un-encrypted comms. The florida governor declared the systems to be encrypted because he likes living in a police state. I do not.

  10. the people of the state of Florida should have the right to hear what is going on in there area,
    in this day and time there is just to much crime going on, and not being able to hear what is happing is putting the public at risk. and I agree what are the depts. hiding from the public and the tax payers. lets hope the new Gov, of Florida will hear the cry of the public and remove the blocks so we can hear what is truly going on in Florida.

  11. The State of Florida has a bid request to replace the aging Law Enforcement Radio System. It’s been an ongoing battle between Harris, located in Florida, and Motorola. Harris has the current contract, which ends in 2021. During the past 15 years, Harris has supplied both the system and support to maintain very reliable communications to our Public Safety Personnel. Harris also has the infrastructure to support a new system.

    The State of Florida has a bid request to replace the aging Law Enforcement Radio System. It’s been an ongoing battle between Harris, located in Florida, and Motorola. Harris has the current contract, which ends in 2021. During the past 15 years, Harris has supplied both the system and support to maintain very reliable communications to our Public Safety Personnel. Harris also has the infrastructure to support a new system. It’s been reported that the Florida Department of Management Services (DMS) has posted a Notice of Intent to award Motorola to replace the new system. It would make a great investigative story on why DMS chose Motorola, when it’s generally believed a new Motorola system would cost Florida taxpayers much more than a Harris system, because Motorola will have to build new infrastructure and Statewide service centers to support the new system. It’s also known that lawmakers are going to have trouble paying for any new system, so every dollar saved would just be good business. Business that would remain in Florida if Harris of Melbourne, FL is chosen. Technology isn’t a deciding factor in the decision, because both Harris and Motorola offer a non-proprietary P25 system. Not only will a new Motorola system cost Taxpayers more money, but Motorola radios used by Public Safety personnel cost more than Harris radios. I’m sending this to all Florida news agencies.

  12. WAIT A MINUTE … FirstNet.GOV just rolled out a 21st century broadband radio network to replace 20th century two-way radio networks across the country. AT&T has been tasked as the FirstNet.COM partner to roll it out and all 50 states have opted in. FirstResponders can get public safety grade LTE Radio equipment at basically NO COST for joining the network, unlimited data and only have to pay a small monthly fee. They get priority and pre-emption across the entire network and looking at the AT&T FirstNet coverage map there are basically no dead spots today in the State of Florida. Over the next 5 years they will be adding additional sites where needed, will have a dedicated public safety core at each site, adding an additional 20 MHz. of bandwidth, etc …
    Motorola and Harris both make subscriber devices for the FirstNet Network. This path month the CEO of Moto dumped over $20M in stock and they layed off 200 people.
    Leave the present Harris system in place as a back-up (it works), but looking at how things are progressing, I doubt it will be needed. I’ve got 35 yrs. experience in this field, the writing is on the wall folks … wake UP legislators!

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