When I moved to Orlando and started at WFTV-TV, I noticed we cover a lot of crime stories. A lot. Our reporters are very good at tracking down details about crimes that have occurred – and they do it quickly. Frankly, they have to if they want to get a story on the air. I covered one story about a guy who claimed that Orlando Police rammed his car and he wanted to be reimbursed. With dash cam video (which is public record) this case would have been cut and dried.
I called OPD and asked to get a copy of the dash cam video of the incident. “We don’t have dash cams in our marked cars,” they told me. A city this size and no dash cams? I couldn’t believe it. Suffice it to say, we never did the story. I learned the guy made a move to drive off after being pulled over. OPD did ram his car to try and stop him – but in the end, he was liable for charges.
The lack of dash cams in the cars was the focus of a Sweeps story I did for November. OPD did a study to buy them a few years ago, but the cost was about 3.2 million to outfit most of their cars. They didn’t want anything to do with it.
Fast forward to the present. OPD still doesn’t have dash cams in any of their marked cars. They do have a few in un-marked training vehicles thanks to some grant money.
I’ve been told the department was interested in new technology (and always are looking) like the Axon camera from Taser, International. Cops wear these cameras on their heads. Then they hit a button and the video starts recording 30 seconds BEFORE they hit the button – but the audio isn’t recorded for that 30 seconds. Then it records as normal. The video is uploaded to a server and, viola, you have video that can be used in court to exonerate the officer (if necessary).
We were the first media organization to test out the new Axon cameras. I must say, they’re pretty cool. You can learn more about them here.
In my story, I compared Orlando to Madison, Wisconsin’s police department. They have dash cams and have for 10 years. They say it has helped them in thousands of cases.
But it all comes down to money. Show OPD the money, and they may sport some new crime-fighting gadgets.
We’ll see what the future holds.