With the Republican National Convention about eight months away, the Tampa Police Department has begun drawing on $50 million in security funding provided by Congress.

The Tampa City Council has approved two major purchases by the police department: an armored vehicle for $272,000 and a $1.2 million communication system that will modernize the city's "eyes in the sky" helicopter-based surveillance.

The rest of the $50 million will pay for up to 4,000 law officers needed to patrol the convention, said Assistant Police Chief Marc Hamlin.

"We're not getting to buy a lot of equipment with this money," he told the city council. "We're only purchasing what we think is necessary."

The city's existing vehicles are military surplus and are becoming difficult to maintain as spare parts become scarce, noted Hamlin.