Matt Puckett: ‘Big victory’ — Florida lawmakers got it right with radio system deal

Walkie Talkie and microphone
A big victory for first responders, law enforcement and taxpayers.

The annual Legislative Session in Tallahassee always produces impactful change for Floridians and this year was no different.

Many issues were debated and some turned into new laws. One major issue was a big victory for first responders and law enforcement, as well as the state’s taxpayers.

The legislature got it right with its new commitment to the State Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS), putting in place a new 15-year agreement to update the system with new state-of-the-art P25 Phase 2 technology, as well as providing for new radios for many state officers who need them badly.

With the current vendor contract set to expire in June, it was critical that the state take action to provide certainty for law enforcement users of the system. Our officers were facing the beginning of hurricane season with the potential of their main communications system in limbo.

Nothing is more important to a front-line officer than his or her radio. It provides a critical link for assistance and backup. The communities we serve rely on our officers to keep them safe and radios are often the link to making sure help arrives as quickly as possible.

The steps taken by our state’s leaders will now give our officers the certainty they need to get their jobs done in a timely and safe manner. Many state officers will get those new radios they have been waiting on, as well. For too long many officers have been using outdated radios that should have been replaced years ago.

With the radio system being upgraded to the newest technology, officers will see both increased capacity and coverage with SLERS. In addition, state law enforcement users of SLERS will be able to augment the SLERS network with FirstNet capability, which is a federal program coming online in future years.

Not only is the renewal deal a big victory for first responders and law enforcement, but the new renewal agreement also saves the state more than $200 million compared to a similar potential solution just last year. Even the annual operations and maintenance paid to the vendor will be lower than previous costs. Clearly, Florida taxpayers are also big winners.

The Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA) applauds the focus of legislative leaders and the Governor for recognizing the importance of SLERS and its continued uninterrupted service. Florida should strive to be a national leader in providing its first responders with state-of-the-art communications systems. This new commitment to SLERS accomplishes that goal. The Governor and legislative leaders have stepped up on this issue, and law enforcement officers across the state are grateful.

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Matt Puckett is the Executive Director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

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