ORLANDO, Fla. - Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants to spend nearly $6 million to boost the number of state agents dedicated to counterterrorism efforts.
Sparked by last year's attack on the Pulse nightclub that left 49 dead, Scott asked legislators to include enough money in the annual budget to hire agents who will be stationed in seven regions across the state.
"This recommended funding is a critical investment in our state’s counterterrorism operations that will work to ensure that our law enforcement officers have the resources they need to curb this senseless violence," Scott said.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen last fall first recommended hiring 46 additional agents. Legislators will consider the request during their annual session that starts in March.
"I applaud the governor for his leadership in recommending this funding which will allow FDLE to integrate additional specialized agents into existing counterterrorism intelligence networks," Swearingen said. "The 46 counterterrorism positions funded by the governor’s recommended budget will serve a critical role in protecting Florida families from the evil of terrorism."
Scott said he is backing the request because the state needs "specialists that are solely dedicated to identifying these terrorists and stopping them."
During the June rampage, shooter Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in telephone conversations with a 911 operator and a police negotiator.
In July, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Orlando Police Chief John Mina went to Washington, D.C. to ask lawmakers to ask for federal funding to prevent future terrorist attacks.
Demings and Mina address the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the Urban Area Security Initiative grant program, which distributes money to metropolitan cities determined to be at a higher risk for terrorism.
Orlando had not received money from the grants in more than two years because the threat of terror was too low.
Both Central Florida law enforcement leaders praised Scott on Wednesday for his call to action.
“As we continue to heal from this act of terror and hate, we are committed to making sure this never happens again and Governor Scott’s recommended funding is a great step toward achieving that goal,” Mina said.
“I saw firsthand the destruction, death, and injuries caused by terrorism on the members of our community after the horrific terror attack at the Pulse Nightclub,” Demings said. “No community should experience what we saw in Orlando and Governor Scott’s recommended funding will help ensure that Florida’s law enforcement community is doing all we can to defeat terror in Florida.”
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