Following a protest filed by the Harris Corporation, Broward County Commissioners voted to defer a vote awarding the public safety radio contract to Motorola. Both companies demonstrated their products to County evaluators last October. The seven members of the evaluation committee gave the highest scores to the Motorola bid even though it was $4 million dollars higher than the Harris bid.
On Tuesday, lawyers, lobbyists and company officials laid out the rationale behind Harris’ formal protest of the evaluation process. Michael Moskowitz and William Salim stated Motorola failed to disclose lawsuits to the evaluation committee. Salim singled out troubling cases involving the deaths of Houston firefighters and Tallahassee first responders. Salim wants the evaluation committee to review the information about the lawsuits.
David Moss, Harris’ senior vice president for North America sales, told commissioners he was troubled by the lack of input from local public safety officials. “User input was limited,” Moss said. Another Harris sales executive stated only two members of the evaluation committee were in the public safety field.
Sammy Brown of the Broward Council of Professional Fire Fighters and Joanne Alvarez, representing Broward 911 call center operators, supported the Harris bid. Both individuals urged commissioners to listen to the opinions of public safety professionals.
MOTOROLA RADIO ISSUES BLAMED FOR DEATHS OF FIRST RESPONDERS
In 2013, four Houston firefighters were killed and thirteen were injured battling a massive hotel fire. According to a Houston television report, a State of Texas investigation “cited 96 radio breakdowns just weeks after a new $140 million radio system from Motorola Solutions had been implemented.” The families of the four firefighters filed a lawsuit against Motorola.
“Even though the system was sold as a state-of-the-art system, many of the firefighters couldn’t even talk to each other over the radios. That’s simply not what a $140 million system should do,” said Ben Hall, attorney for the families.
In a statement to ABC 13 Houston, Motorola said, “Since the fire, Motorola Solutions worked closely with the Houston fire department to improve training and understanding of operational capabilities, as well as to provide system enhancements. We stand behind our equipment and support our Houston customer.”
Issues with Motorola radios are blamed in the death of Leon County Sheriff’s deputy Chris Smith.
On November 22, 2014, Deputy Chris Smith responded to a fire at the Tallahassee home of Curtis Wade Holley. Deputy Smith and Deputy Colin Wulfekuhl were the first to arrive on the scene. According to the USA TODAY report, Smith was killed almost instantly.
“We have information that we have received that this person was anti-government, was anti-establishment and had discussed at some point in time planning to harm law enforcement,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. James McQuaig said.
The Leon County Sheriff’s Office stated the gunman wanted to kill as many first responders as possible. “It was a 100% ambush,” he said. “This guy had a plan and he put this plan into action.”
In February 2015, a Leon County Grand Jury “blasted the Consolidated Dispatch Agency (CDA) over not relaying information that could have prevented Smith from being shot to death, mishandling 911 calls during the Strozier Library shooting at Florida State, and for causing delays in responding to the shooting death of FSU law professor Dan Markel.”
The Grand Jury stated important information was never relayed to first responders. If the first responders had been properly warned, the Grand Jury believed Deputy Chris Smith would be alive today.
REPORT BLAMES MOTOROLA
Less than a year later, an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting placed blame on Motorola.
The Gartner Report found “there was a clear history of instability during the first twelve months of operation…. Since January 2015 there have been two full system outages attributable to Motorola, resulting in a total of approximately sixteen minutes of system downtime.”
“The truth is what we hear today is that we could have done a better job early, both the board and Motorola as well,” said Leon County Sheriff Mike Wood. ” We could have done a better job early that may have prevented us from being here today.”
In December 2015, the widow of Deputy Chris Smith filed a lawsuit against the CDA and Motorola. Attorney Matthew Foster said, “we filed the lawsuit for two primary reasons. First to make sure the CDA and Motorola are held accountable for their contribution to what happened to Deputy Chris Smith. Second, to make sure this never happens again to any other first responder.”