Tampa votes 'yes' on downtown street surveillance cameras for RNC Convention

Concern over if cameras permanent after Convention

TAMPA - Buying police surveillance cameras for the RNC Convention wasn't the sticking point.

"We're not here today to oppose the purchase of those cameras," said John Dingfelder, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Florida.

"I don't have a problem with, the ACLU doesn't have a problem with the purchase of this equipment," said Tampa City Council Member Lisa Montelione.

"It is for the benefit of the general public," said Tampa City Council chair Charlie Miranda.

All but one council member, Mary Mulhern, voted ‘yes' to spend $2 million in federal grant money to buy cameras from a Miami-based company called Aware Digital and use those eyes to keep watch over downtown during the RNC Convention.

"Police officers on the beat, on the ground, will be able to use a smartphone to find a location with a camera and be able to, maybe even look for perpetrators, at that moment to be able to catch them quickly," said Tampa City Council Member Mike Suarez.  Suarez said Chief Jane Castor filled him in on some of the technology details during a Wednesday meeting.

It's what happens to the police surveillance video cameras after August that drew scrutiny from council members and the community.

"I have to make sure, have some assurances, that I can go back to the people in my district and assure them that these cameras will not be placed in East Tampa," said City Council Member Frank Reddick.

"That's the reason why I'm asking to come back so we're afforded the time to look at the regulations in place in cities that do have these cameras," said Montelione.  

"I don't want and I think there are going to be a lot of people in this city who do not want cameras installed, all over, downtown and wherever else," said Mulhern.

There's a fine line between public information and public safety. It's why Tampa Police say they blacked-out entire pages in the city's camera contract before it was released to the public.  

"That information could has security implications, so we're not going to publicly say exactly where the cameras will be deployed," said Chief Castor. Castor will also not say how many cameras they are buying.

What she was clear on, when the RNC clears out, the city will be talking again if the cameras stay or go.

"The issue of how the system is going to be used after the RNC is something that everyone should be involved in. The public should weigh in," she said.

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