Police cameras at center of looming lawsuit

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The family of a woman who was hit by a Cincinnati Police cruiser is now calling for justice.

Thirty-six year old Natalie Cole was hit by officer Orlando Smith while she was crossing Vine Street not in a crosswalk in Over-The-Rhine Saturday night.

Two other families, the Matthews and O'Neal families, each have a son who was shot by Officer Smith last year during separate incidents.

Coincidentally, during each one of these incidents, the dash cam in Smith's cruiser randomly shut off for a short period of time.

FOX19 took a closer look at this technology that seems to be at the center of this case.

It's a routine police officers follow every day. Officer Derrick Hill says his unit is almost brand new, a 2012 model.

"These are the most up-to-date cameras that we have, the digital cameras and they're real valuable to the guys on the street," say Hill.

Hill says the system is pretty much set up for them, they just have to do a few things like check the microphones right when they start their shift. Hill also says a lot of it is out of their control.

"If something happens during a shift where a supervisor has to download something off the hard drive, they're the only ones with the keys that can come and get the stuff out of there," explains Hill.

In the past year, there have been some incidents where the video needed a second look, some involving Officer Orlando Smith. Smith's dash cam is about five years old and police say wear-and-tear can play a role in how well it works. But the Matthews, O'Neal, and Coles family are all confused as to why his camera is so inefficient.

"I want some answers and I want some justice. How does it happen two times in one year?" asks Brenda Cole.

Cincinnati Police say these cameras frequently do shut off randomly during emergency runs, often times because of heavy breaking and acceleration, but Anternitia O'Neal says she's not buying it.

"You would have thought they would have inspected that car, inspected everything, and made sure there was no glitches at all in the computer. So for him to give that same exact story is just bogus," says O'Neal.

Police say they try and equip the cruisers with the latest dash cam technology every five years or so. But per car, it costs nearly $6,000.

Officer Smith is on administrative leave after Saturday's accident. The incident remains under investigation.

Eric Deters says he plans to file a formal lawsuit in the next few days.

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