OPD, other Florida departments may soon have better anti-terrorism support

ORLANDO, Fla. — In the wake of 9/11 Congress created the Department of Homeland Security.  Under the new department money was distributed to local law enforcement agencies as part of the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) to help enhance regional preparedness in high-threat population centers.

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While departments across the country praised the program it had one flaw, as the City of Orlando discovered in 2016.  Just one month after the terrorist attack on the Pulse nightclub, Orlando discovered that it had been left off the UASI funding list due to the way the Department of Homeland security calculated density of metropolitan areas.

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It would take Orlando two years to get back on the list, eventually receiving $1.5 million in 2018.

Now central Florida Congresswoman, and former OPD Chief Val Demings is pushing a bill (HR 5615) to remove this inconsistency.

“It fluctuates and many times different municipalities don’t know if they’re going to be eligible or receive the funding the next year or not,” said Demings in an interview with Eyewitness News.  “The formula changes and Orlando that was once on the list fell off of the list and so we’re just one city that is caught up in this revolving door.”

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The changes, co-sponsored by Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) would direct DHS to review past grants and create a plan to continue federal antiterrorism support based on existing capabilities.

“DHS would be able to better interact with local jurisdictions and local jurisdictions could be involved in the formula process so that DHS can have the information that it needs when they’re making these very critical decisions,” Demings said.

This year, Orlando received $3.8 million under UASI, with Tampa receiving $3.8 million, and $14.75 million going to Miami/Fort Lauderdale.

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The bill still needs to pass the full house, although it is expected to have wide bipartisan support.

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