Rattled by the “devastation” of the June 12 Pulse nightclub terror attack, Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday said he will ask for $5.8 million in the state’s 2017-2018 budget to hire more counterterrorism agents for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
At a press conference at Orlando’s FDLE headquarters, Scott said the money would add 46 new counterterrorism agents to be spread throughout the operation’s seven regions. Scott said he was inspired to seek the funding after the Pulse shooting.
“A terrorist, inspired by ISIS and filled with hate, stormed into Pulse night club here in Orlando and killed 49,” Scott said. “It was an attempt to rip us apart at our seams, to divide us and instill fear in our communities.”
“This recommended funding will be critical to ensuring that our law enforcement community has the intelligence they need to defeat hate and terror in Florida,” Dyer said.
FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said the agents’ sole focus would be to improve the gathering of Florida’s terror-related intelligence and to investigate terror-related crimes. Currently, the FDLE has some special agents devoted to anti-terrorism work, but the operation “does not have the resources” it needs to be fully functional, Swearingen said.
Of the 46 positions, one would be a supervisor, about 38 will be special agents in the field investigating terrorism leads and the others would work as data analysts.
“As the threats to our nation increase, the FDLE is ready to move to the next level to make sure that we can accomplish our goal,” Swearingen said. “[The funds would] allow us to take a more proactive approach to investigating and deterring terrorism in Florida.
Swearingen said sometimes FDLE special agents must be pulled off of other assignments, such as investigating drug crimes, to pursue terrorism leads. That’s why he said extra agents specifically focused on counterterrorism would be more efficient.
“Because of Pulse, we know first-hand the devastation [terrorism can bring],” Swearingen said. “Protecting Florida’s citizens and visitors is a responsibility we take very seriously.”
The agents would form counterterrorism squads and sent to all seven FDLE regions in the state. Swearingen said some would be sent to work with FBI bureaus, as well. They would be working with local, state and federal intelligence operations, Scott said.
“Our federal partners have said that they do not have the resources to combat the spread of terrorism on their own,” Swearingen said. “This must be a collaboration between federal state and local law enforce authorities, as well as citizens.”
However, the agents would not be sent to work with the state’s three intelligence fusion centers, which gathers multiagency terrorism-related information, Swearingen said.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Orlando Police Chief John Mina have been seeking federal funding for more than a year to support the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange fusion center, which also works with the FDLE and FBI. Though the state funds would not be going to CFIX, Mina said the funds to the FDLE would still be beneficial to their pursuit of domestic security.