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Nancy Smith

Shameful Shenanigans of the Police Radio Variety

March 9, 2016 - 7:00pm

Want an unvarnished look at your Legislature in action? Revisit the saga of the $7 million police radios no law enforcement agency asked for but will get anyway.

These are the radios, remember, that were cut out of the budget Sunday night when the Senate wouldn't sign off on them. But guess what? The House found a way to get them in the budget anyway.

Monday night, in what was the last late-night meeting on this year's state spending plan, Tom Lee, R-Brandon, appropriations chief from the Senate and Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, appropriations chief from the House made a deal, granting their chambers another $123.1 million for pet projects that can go back in the budget.

It's nothing new. These projects are known as "sprinkles." "Don't be naive, Nancy," a lobbyist told me, "this is how sausage is made."

Sorry, folks, this sausage is rotten. It should be sent back to the kitchen and scratched off the menu. 

To repeat, we're talking about $7 million for radios no one wants. $7 million. Think of the agencies left begging, agencies and programs that would clamor for half the radios appropriation.

It's all about two things: 1) vendor Harris Corp. of Melbourne positioning itself to renew one of the most lucrative contracts in state government by cutting out competitive bids; and 2) powerful House leaders taking care of a very large constituent (Harris) and reaping rewards for it: specifically, Speaker Steve Crisafulli, who lives in Meritt Island, just across the bridge from Harris; and Ritch Workman, chair of House Rules, Calendar & Ethics (Ethics? ), who comes from Melbourne.

Workman put in the $7 million budget detail request, but Harris' Washington, D.C. lobbyist Glen Grab is identified on the form as the requestor. See the request in the attachment below.  

Oh, yes, and last November Harris popped $20,000 into Crisafulli's committee account, Growing a Sustainable Future; then $10 into Workman's Citizens United for Liberty and Freedom. 

Crisafulli gave this statement Monday to Peter Schorsch of

“DMS has identified over 6,000 state law enforcement radios that need to be replaced now. So far, the House hasn’t been successful in obtaining $7 million to replace radios. ... My hope is to secure these funds before the budget is completely finished because the state has an obligation to provide the tools our officers need to be safe.”

Now,  I have always been a Crisafulli fan and will remain so, in spite of this issue. But the speaker is confusing a phrase known as “end of life” with a need for new radios. The Joint Task Force preparing for a competitive bid knows the radios are “end of life.” That's why the state has spent $2 million to begin upgrading the system -- yes, $2 million of taxpayers' money spent so far to get this $500-million-plus project bid out properly. But here's the rub: The radios the users have are working, and if they weren’t, the agencies would have requested money this year to buy new ones. They did not.

Previously, the state Division of Forestry asked for radios in their budget request -- $600,000, and they were funded. The new radios are part of a different system, not the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS), but actual experience pokes a hole in the speaker’s argument that first responders on the SLERS system “need” radios, even though they didn’t ask for them.

Harris manages the current SLERS system. It uses an outdated technology (analog) called EDACS.  The new system will be P25 (digital). Harris radios to be purchased using the $7 million are P25, but can also work on the current EDACS system. 

Make no mistake, they won't come equipped with the bells and whistles they might have if they were "competitively procured."

At the end of the day, the police radios issue is about public safety. It's about the people of Florida trusting their state government to get the best equipment for its officers. It does all of the officers a disservice to circumvent the will of the agencies and even the entire Legislature.

Seeing what happened here, you have to feel sorry for Floridians who live in districts not represented by powerful leaders.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith


Who would be against law enforcement getting new technology -- should they have to wait 20 years at a time to get new radios that work in current infrastructure? Would also love for someone to explain how providing new technology under an existing contract cuts out competitive bidding in...five years.

BUT Nancy, they're both Republicans, how can you even question this deal? That's so unlike you, based upon your positions on past back door deals!

Law enforcement has been asking for these radios for 5 YEARS. From the Joint Task Force Board report which was an amendment to the 2011 DMS report to the legislature: “Challenge: Replacement of Aging Mobile and Portable Radios Unlike cell phones or computer systems, the law enforcement radio replacement cycle is typically longer; usually eight years for mobile and six years for portables as outlined in the State’s Law Enforcement Communications Plan guidelines. The current mobile radios used in our system have been identified for end of support and will become obsolete by December 2014. This technology must be replaced with newer mainstream equipment that is capable of operating on the federally supported P-25 platform. The cost of replacing all mobiles and portables with radios for our state agencies is estimated at $85M.” Since the time this need was documented, no significant radio purchases offset this need, the radios are now 10 + years old and out of the state’s own replacement policy stated above.

thank u ms./mr. harris mouthpiece. two agencies I contacted said all they have to do is ask for new radios and they get them. i know you got a big beef with another radio company but the state is trying to get a bid process going here. stop trying to shut it down.

Just remember who is doing this when it comes time to vote...

Read this article AGAIN Folks;.... Can you spell L_E_G_I_S_L_A_T_I_V_E_ C_O_R_R_U_P_T_I_O_N_ ????? This is EXACTLY how pettifoggers like Crisafulli and other legislators across this State ( AND the rest of the country) fill their 'campaign coffers'; and how Lobbys can pay 'former' politicians m-i-l-l-i-o-n-s of dollars per year (MUCH more than these thieves made "serving the people")---{Watch where Senator Nelson ends up when we finally see the last of him} to allow Lobbys access to legislative actions that concern those Lobbys and their 'clients' ( It's kinda like the Clintons renting out the "Lincoln Bedroom" and selling "SECRETS" (of all kinds, military, economic and corporate) to the Chinese (one even went to prison; but one of the enablers is still here..running for President) in return for MONEY, LOTS & LOTS OF MONEY. [READ: "Extortion" by Peter Schweitzer]

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nancy smith

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