How Tampa's Surveillance State Profited from the Republican National Convention

The GOP convention gave a powerful boost to Tampa law enforcement.


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.

Federal Grants

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.

According to the latest 2013 budget proposal, the city of Tampa also is able to afford its own Homeland Security Grant Coordinator at an annual salary of $47,765, whose sole duty is to manage the millions of dollars that pour into the city's police department.

The press office of the city of Tampa did not return calls to Florida Watchdog.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), introduced a bill banning the public funding of political party conventions earlier this year, and it was overwhelmingly agreed to in the House.

While it aims to strip funding for the actual conventions, it makes no mention of the nearly $100 million in security funds allocated each year a convention is held.

A similar version of the bill also passed in the Senate, prompting both chambers to present a merged bill to be voted on in the last remaining month of the legislative session on Capitol Hill.

This article originally appeared at Watchdog.org.

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  1. “engendering a new kind of technological surveillance state never before seen by Florida residents.”

    If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear. These sickening completely necessary invasions of privacy and federal overreach are for our own good, our ‘superiors’ say so.

  2. armored trucks with weapons mounting capabilities, and state-of-the-art bulletproof vests strong enough to withstand high-caliber rounds.

    Thy need heavy duty hardware when they go up against those drunk chicks in Ybor City.

    1. Ya seriously, ybor is completely over-tamed 99% of the time. The other 1% know where there are no cops and usually start fights or shooting there.

  3. and state-of-the-art bulletproof vests strong enough to withstand high-caliber rounds.

    As in rifle rounds? That shit must indeed be state of the art.

    1. Vibranium.

    2. I never understood the “high-caliber” distinction.

      I mean a .223 is half the caliber of a .45 but the vest would only stop the .45.


      Made some beef jerky yesterday. I put some of my pepper flakes from this summer’s crop on it. Fuckin’ awesome shit. I should sell this stuff.

  4. “ATMs take your picture. Buildings have cameras,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times while trying to downplay privacy concerns.

    Two other ways of looking at it:

    “I don’t think there’s much distinction between surveillance and media in general. Better media means better surveillance. Cams are everywhere.”
    Bruce Sterling


    “Surveillance induced morality: relics of cultural retardation.”
    Marc Maron

    1. There’s a big difference between a private camera and a government one.

  5. “Without the closed circuit video, detectives would need DNA to confirm the suspect’s identity”

    So, video can now *confirm* one’s identity, eh? Just install those bad boys in every polling place!

    1. Racist!!!

  6. What is good for the goose……


    1. Aw, that shit just gives people hope!

      1. I live in Chicago. This whole thing started after police officers beat a man for videotaping them. If it weren’t for courts overturning laws in this county, Chicago politicians would have turned Cook county into a police state by now.

        1. “would have”…”by now”

          HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That’s cute!

          1. Hey! You’re still allowed to own a handgun in Chicago, so long as you buy the gun outside of Cook County, take a state sponsored safety test, pay a $100 fee every 3 years, pay a $15 fee for every additional handgun, dismantle the gun at all times in which you are taking it from location to location, only keep the gun in your dwelling (not including a garage or storage unit) and only have one gun in a usable state at a time.

            Thank God the Grand and Glorious City is here to protect us from ourselves. Otherwise Chicago might have a lot of crime.

  7. Bizarro World: Trudeau calls long-gun registry ‘a failure’
    Having a firearm is an ‘important facet of Canadian identity,‘ Liberal leadership hopeful says

    1. At least their long form census is optional unlike here in the Land of the Free.

    2. He’s still around?! (…) Oh, there’s another one. Great.

  8. London has CCTV everywhere and it’s now virtually crime-free. And did the UK citizens give up any liberties they really needed?

    1. certainly not any they were using.

    2. And if you ever doubt how bad it is in the UK, well, even the Aussies think they are screwed.

    3. “London has CCTV everywhere and it’s now virtually crime-free.”

      That is a good one FOE. Here is another good one from Sleep New York;

      “…total crime rates for London have been estimated at about seven times those of New York for a slightly smaller population and some authorities suggest these figures have been minimized. England and Wales are now accounted by some estimates as the most dangerous places for crime in the developed world.”

      I visited Newcastle/Sunderland some years ago. I did not meet a single person who had not had their home broken into and more than half had been seriously assaulted.

      1. I can confirm the observations about New Castle. The ex-in-laws live in Fence Houses, a council house (projects) near NC. Awful place. The sister-in-law has had to move several times because kf the junkies and dealers.

        The tourist areas of London may be relatively crime free, experience has taught me that the areas around the council estates are not. (More relatives and friends there too)

        Glasgow is a crime pit. Even though I lived in the rural highlands, my house was broken into while we were there, as was my car.

        1. Europeans have also always had more communal crime compared to America’s individual crime. Whenever I travel in Europe you hear stories about riots and gang beatings with the same sort of frequency that you hear about shootings in America.

  9. Mayor Buckhorn is a Big Brother douche. Look up the Hillsborough County Sheriff YouTube channel to see how well the red light cameras are working.

    “ATMs take your picture.” And you can choose not to use them. “Buildings have cameras.” And you can choose not to go in them. But I can’t really avoid driving through my own city. Not unless I can somehow survive without food or money anyway.

    1. You implicitly gave your consent when you were born into society


  10. Well I will say that cameras in downtown Tampa will record a whole lotta nothing on average. There are definitely more people living there then years past, but most of the population treats downtown as neat scenery as they crawl by on I275

  11. lol, Tampa (Hillsborough) cops are not exactly the brightest bulbs in the pack!


  12. Anything which keeps tabs on the ever shifty Pro Libertate, I’m for.

  13. Tampa also is able to afford its own Homeland Security Grant Coordinator at an annual salary of $47,765

    I was struck by what a bargain this position is for the city. It’s only marginally higher than a private sector salary for a similar type of job, and just under $48k can potentially return tens of millions in grant money. That’s as close as government can get to “efficient”.

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