A vast network of surveillance cameras, armored trucks with weapons mounting capabilities, and state-of-the-art bulletproof vests strong enough to withstand high-caliber rounds.
Those are just a few of the spoils enjoyed by the Tampa Police Department during the highly anticipated Republican National Convention, which occupied the city from Aug. 27-30 and hosted close to 45,000 delegates, guests, and members of the media.
But while most of the convention-goers have long since left Tampa Bay, the millions of dollars in security costs awarded to local police departments have stayed put, engendering a new kind of technological surveillance state never before seen by Florida residents.
The money in question was allocated by Congress in early 2012, designating $50 million each to the RNC in Tampa and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in order to cover “security costs” expected by host cities.
Initial documents released by the city showed that just over half of the $50 million was spent on bringing in 3,000 police officers for the event, paying for overtime, food, and equipment costs.
“We released a semi-final report because there were still invoices coming in,” said Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis, noting that more than $2.7 million has yet to be reported. She told Florida Watchdog that “several purchases” have yet to be budgeted and they will be released to the public as soon as possible.
After personnel costs, the next greatest expenditures were “technology and cameras,” according to the Tampa Police Department, totaling nearly $11.6 million as of the last review.
This includes $2 million for 60 or more surveillance cameras
dispatched throughout the city during the RNC.
But according to officials, they will now become a prime tool of the department in deterring crime.
“ATMs take your picture. Buildings have cameras,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times while trying to downplay privacy concerns. “Those cameras are vital for us to keep this environment safe and to attract people to come here.”
As recently as Nov. 2, Tampa Police hoped to generate public support for the mass network of surveillance cameras by boasting in a news release, “RNC closed circuit cameras help officers make fast arrest in garage attack.”
After a woman was attacked in the parking garage, police were able to locate footage of the suspect leaving the scene and promptly arrested him.
“Without the closed circuit video, detectives would need DNA to confirm the suspect’s identity which would take at least five days,” reads the release.
In 2011, the city of Tampa received $12.5 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and $1.1 million from the Department of Justice, allocated for “crime reduction” and for “mitigating terrorism,” according to the auditor’s report.
These grants have allowed the police department to maintain its fleet of armored vehicles and fund special “counter-terrorism training,” according to the police department’s website.