Why Don't Orlando Police Have Dash-Cams?

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Police depend on police dash cams to catch criminals in the act, but not in Orlando. The department does not have basic technology that police in other cities have been using for years.

Orlando lined I-Drive and downtown with surveillance cameras to fight crime, but WFTV found no cameras in any of the city's marked squad cars. Criminal justice professor Richard Weinblatt says it doesn't make sense.

"The action is at the hood of that car," he said.

In the past two years, Orlando's street cameras caught 100 crimes, but if police had dash-cams they could have recorded thousands of others, particularly DUIs.

"Those officers are being paid to sit in court to contest the allegations they placed in their report that could be cleared up most likely by a video," attorney Doug Dorner said.

WFTV compared Orlando to Madison, Wisconsin, which has a similar population. Madison's 140 squad cars have had dash-cams for nearly a decade. A police spokesman said it curbed racial-profiling accusations, saved court costs and sped prosecutions.

"Cases that involve video typically move through the system a little bit faster," Dorner said.

Orlando balked at the cost of the cameras, up to $3 million for the majority of its fleet.

"Yeah, we've talked about it," Sgt. Barb Jones told WFTV. "We're always looking at technology. It's expensive."

Orlando could have asked for stimulus money. That's how Kissimmee just got $70,000 for seven digital dash-cams, which have already recorded dozens of crimes.

Weinblatt says Orlando missed a rare opportunity.

"The next year is actually going to be tougher for government, because a lot of the Obama stimulus money will be gone," Weinblatt said.

Orlando police say they are holding out for newer options, like the wireless camera from Taser International. Officers wear them on their heads, but they cost more than dash-cams and, again, the city won't commit.

"You have to look at the money and the re-occurring cost," Sgt. Jones said.

Critics say going without could cost much more.

"It gives you more information and, in some cases, it may be the crucial piece of information," Weinblatt said.

Orlando police just looked at new technology at a police conference. Thursday afternoon, a police spokeswoman said the department would be interested in the new Axon cameras, but cannot buy them due to the cost and a lack of funds.