As Florida's crime rate drops, Rick Scott says anti-terrorism costs will rise
Even while state leaders continue to highlight the state's dropping crime rate, the somber realities of the worst mass murder in U.S. history and a summer of violent police encounters nationwide is provoking a response from the Florida government.
Over a few hours on Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Rick Scott and the state's Cabinet heard pleas from state law enforcement agencies to spend millions to hire dozens of new counter-terrorism specialists, revamp the state's counter-terrorism laws and double the number of Florida Highway Patrol pursuit vehicles with dashboard cameras.
The requests — totalling nearly $10 million — come at a time state leaders are growing increasingly concerned about rising budget expenses that could result in budget shortfalls over the next three years. Still, with memories of the Pulse nightclub killings in Orlando fresh in their minds, Gov. Rick Scott left no doubt he expects the cost of fighting terrorism will increase.
"We all have to understand that we live in a time where people want to do harm to our country," Scott said. "We're going to have to spend more money to fight terrorism."
Under a plan detailed for the first time Tuesday before Scott and the Florida Cabinet, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it needs to hire 46 counter-terrorism specialists statewide costing more than $6 million. In addition, FDLE said it would push the Legislature for new laws that would allow it to investigate and go after terrorist suspects like the federal law enforcement agencies do now.
"What happened in Orlando on the morning June 12, 2016 shook us all but it did not break us," FDLE commissioner Richard Swearingen told Scott and the other three elected members of the Cabinet. "And it convinced me and my team that we can, and must do more to protect our state."