TAMPA, Fla - More than 300,000 people are expected to gather for Tampa's annual Gasparilla Parade this Saturday, the third largest parade in the nation. Among the spectators will be top law enforcement chiefs and commanders from across the nation.
Action News rode with Lt. Mike Flynn with the Tampa Police Department to learn about preparations for the parade.
"We have cameras and other things to help keep everybody safe," Lt. Flynn said.
He is is a part of Special Operations and is a commander who helps head up twelve major units.
"We'll have officers on the parade route and officers in the neighborhood."
But the real preps are happening inside police headquarters.
"It's remarkable the information we can share and get out in real time," Lt. Flynn said.
It involves two pieces of technology acquired by TPD: E-Sponder and Safecop. When combined, they are able to immediately track any threat like a suspicious package or person.
"This intelligence and data also lets us know the surrounding area, like whether there is a church or some other type of building," said Lt. Flynn.
With one entry, any threat or concern is dispatched to all officers in the field.
"With this technology it allows us to share information real time on the fly," he said.
The technology also stores historical data.
"With the things that happened in Boston it's enabled us to put together a very sound and secure plan to keep all the citizens safe," Lt. Flynn said.
Safecop is the brainchild of an assistant TPD chief, John Bennett. It was created specifically for TPD for the Republican National Convention.
"The technology and training have proven so efficient," Chief Jane Castor said, "It clearly makes us proud of what we do here everyday."
Chief Castor will be host to nearly a dozen commanders from across the country beginning on Thursday.
"They will do ride-alongs with our officers and then on Friday we will take them through the software applications. And then on Saturday they will be in the command center to see how we run an event like Gasparilla. And they will also be along the parade route," said Chief Castor, who added that the ultimate goal: "is to make their cities as safe as Tampa is."
And Safecop did not cost the police department anything. Because TPD personnel helped design and create it, the company provided it for free.
This is not the first time TPD has helped other law enforcement agencies, but Chief Castor did tell Action News this is the first time such a large group is coming in for training.