Saturday, April 21, 2018
Opinion

After the RNC, cameras still watch our every move

Smile. Then again on second thought, smile a lot. Keep smiling all over downtown Tampa. And along the Riverwalk, start smiling more than all the Miss America contestants combined.

Smile. You're about to be captured on the Buckhorn-Cam.

What do you do with the 60 or so surveillance cameras installed during the recent Republican National Convention to capture either: A) all those protesters who showed up en masse with about the same turnout as Clint Eastwood's empty chair and/or B) Newt Gingrich stumbling around town?

Well you keep them up and running apparently. What might we call this? Cinema Guavadiso?

The RNC was a motherlode of new stuff for the area's first responders and especially the Tampa Police Department, which allowed the city to purchase all sorts of really nifty cop stuff — big guns, swanky command cars and of course the TPD's nuclear submarine, aircraft carrier and squadron of B-52s.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn, of course, got his personal M1A1 Abrams tank, which will come in mighty handy when the mayor makes his move to hold St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster at bay while he herds the Tampa Bay Rays across the Gandy Bridge. But you're not supposed to know about that.

Then there are all those cameras, purchased for about $2 million in federal money to observe and report on any nefarious behavior while the GOP was in town.

Now the party is over. But about the cameras? They stay.

Like water, power and snoopiness seeks its own level. Despite some complaints that keeping the cameras in place is a needless intrusion into the privacy rights of people, the natural order of things suggests once you give law enforcement enhanced tools in the name of public safety, it is almost impossible to take them away without cries of dismay being raised we're all doomed to the forces of evil lurking in the streets.

It's an interesting quandary. If Buckhorn keeps the cameras up and whirring, he runs the risk of being tabbed an Orwellian big brother. If he deactivates them in the name of protecting privacy and some horrible crime occurs that might have captured the bad guy on video then he would be labeled a soft-on-crime pansy.

Buckhorn is right when he argues we are already heavily monitored from private security cameras, to the lens starring back at the ATM, to the growing number of red light cameras populating the roadways. What's 60 more?

Isn't that sort of the rub?

No one would argue we all want to feel secure on the streets.

But it is also the age-old question — how much are you willing to give up for that additional security? A bit of privacy here? A bit of liberty there?

To be sure, the RNC cameras might be better deployed to the city's documented high crime neighborhoods. Perhaps some could be repositioned to provide additional security for various government buildings.

And at the risk of totally wadding the American Civil Liberties Union, we could probably set up a few cameras at the city's hoochie-coochie joints just for the fun of it.

In the end, this is probably the unintended consequence of wooing the RNC, of wanting to be viewed as a world-class city, or putting on the airs of respectability.

The price is greater security — because we can, because we have the toys to play with and we're not going to give them up.

Now, we're expected to behave.

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