Police in Miramar will soon have their own collection of video evidence recorded with sophisticated technology at murder scenes, traffic crashes and fires.
This week, the agency's five-member, crime-scene technician unit, led by Supervisor Michael Kelly, is learning to use a $75,000 Panoscan camera system. It takes seamless, 360-degree scans and documents an entire setting, indoors or out, day or night, in just minutes.
"The purpose of the system is to have a visual, accurate depiction to show a jury," Kelly said Tuesday. "In the old days, handing out pictures to a jury, it was very disjointed. If they see the whole room, it's a whole different picture."
Outside Miramar Police's west district substation, a dummy with a knife in its belly was lying face up, surrounded by shell casings in a mock crime scene.
The Panoscan rotated on its stand, recorded the debris and delivered clear images to a laptop. The system also can measure distances between pieces of evidence, details investigators need when they try to recreate what happened during the commission of a crime.
The city purchased the system with law enforcement trust fund money that is comprised of assets seized from offenders.
Kelly said using overhead projectors in a courtroom, as is still done in Broward County, "is very old technology."
Panoscan is based in California. The system will bring a virtual crime scene to a jury, its makers say. Its computer software also allows 911 calls, witness interviews, ballistic reports and other evidence to pop up onto a crime-scene video.
Its computer software also allows 911 calls, witness interviews, ballistic reports and other evidence to pop up onto a crime-scene video.
Since 2001, the Broward Sheriff's Office has used versions of panoramic crime-scene cameras made by other companies.
"It certainly has made our measurements more accurate," said Sgt. Stewart Mosher of BSO's crime-scene unit. "It's an exceptional demonstrative aide, as close to virtual reality as one can get without compromising the crime scene."
Panoscan's technology is 15 years old. Company President Ted Chavalas said Miramar's Panoscan system may be the first time its cameras are used in Florida.
"There are hundreds of police departments using this in the U.S.," said Chavalas. He said federal law enforcement agencies use it too.
Kelly said he wants to use the Panoscan to film inside every school in Miramar. The technology allows a user to click anywhere on a floor plan to see a video clip made in each room or hallway, so that a campus layout and possible escape routes are apparent.
An officer could pull up a school's video package on the laptop in his or her squad car while on the way to a fire, hostage situation or crime scene, Chavalas said.
"Hopefully you will never need it, but you never know," Kelly said. "If the SWAT team is going in, they can see all the information for every room. I'm going to put it to work, you can believe me."
Ltrischitta@Tribune.com, 954-356-4233 or Twitter @LindaTrischitta