After lengthy discussion, Tampa City Council approves $2 million for surveillance cameras for RNC

After the ACLU's Dingfelder complained that the public had not had the opportunity to have Council address privacy concerns, City Attorney Sal Territo said with a straight face that the agenda item had been on the city's website since...the night before.


Councilwoman Mulhern asked why there was such urgency. Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said there had been a delay in the original requests for proposals to vendors who would operate the camera system, which led to sending out a second RFP. She said it was critical that Aware Digital, the company that won the bid, be able to begin work on the cameras immediately, since the city had declared there would be a $500 fine for every day after the city's imposed July 1 deadline.


Council member Lisa Montelione said she had heard the concerns of the ACLU and her constituents loud and clear. She said it was important that the Police Department study how other cities have used such surveillance cameras after events like political conventions. She was originally requesting that the city's legal department prepare such an ordinance within weeks, but after City Attorney Jim Shimberg said it would take much more time than that, and that it has been understood that Council would have to approve the use of the cameras post convention, she and her colleagues, with the exception of Mary Mulhern, fell in line and voted to approve the camera purchase.

The Tampa City Council voted today to pass a resolution that granted the Tampa Police Department $2 million to purchase the use of approximately 60 cameras for surveillance around downtown for the Republican National Convention — but also voted to host a workshop in September to determine what would happen with the cameras after the RNC.

The motion passed 6-1, with Mary Mulhern dissenting. She was unsuccessful in getting her colleagues to specify what dates the cameras would actually be operating. Saying "this is how it happens," she expressed concerns that the public had not had any opportunity to debate whether they wanted the cameras in use after the convention.

Other Council members expressed similar concerns regarding the use of such cameras post-convention. But that issue was addressed when the Council added an amendment that requires a workshop to be held exactly three weeks after the convention ends (left unsaid is whether those cameras will be used during those three weeks).

The ACLU's Tampa representative, former Councilman John Dingfelder, called on the Council to delay the vote for two weeks to allow the public the chance to review the proposal and comment about it. That's because the item to approve the funding (which comes from part of the $50 million given to the city for security for the convention) was only put on the Council's agenda on Wednesday, technically a violation of City Council rules which state that the agenda should be fixed seven days earlier, though one that Council can and has waived in the past. A city attorney ruled that it was up to the chair's discretion.

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