Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, are used by law enforcement agencies across the United States as a way to give officers a bird's-eye view. Here's a roundup of the latest headlines related to police drone use.
Bill Would Allow Illinois Officers to Expand Drone Use
A bill in the Illinois General Assembly would allow law enforcement officers to use drones in more scenarios. H.B. 3902 cleared both the Senate and the House of Representatives late last month. The measure would let law enforcement use drones to monitor special events like parades and festivals, according to CBS Chicago.
The effort is led by State Sen. Julie Morrison who was at the July 4th parade in Highland Park, Illinois, last year when a man started shooting from a rooftop, killing seven people and wounding dozens more.
Morrison said the drones would help identify threats that aren't easily spotted from the ground.
The legislation amends the Freedom From Drone Surveillance Act, which prohibits the use of drone use by law enforcement agencies except in extreme circumstances like counterterrorism, or if the agency obtained a search warrant first.
The new bill allows law enforcement to use drones at “routed” or “special” events, like parades or festivals.
According to WTVO, the drones could not be weaponized and attendees would have to be notified of their use. Facial identity systems would be used, but only in rare instances to prevent “imminent harm to life.”
The bill awaits the governor's signature.
Minnesota PD's New Drone Program Allows Officers to Use Own Technology
The Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, Police Department is launching a drone program. The police chief unveiled the policy for the program at a recent city council meeting.
Previously, officers relied on neighboring police departments for drone support.
Drones will be used primarily for search and rescue operations, but may also be launched to assist officers executing search warrants. Minnesota state law allows police to use drones without a search warrant only in a limited number of instances
Additionally, the department will no longer use K9s to apprehend suspects. Instead, K9s trained in suspect tracking will work in tandem with drone pilots to locate fleeing suspects.
The department recently posted on its Facebook page that it was seeking public comments on its program as it develops the program and policies.
New Mexico Sheriff's Office Adds Various Drones With Special Features
The Bernalillo County, New Mexico, Sheriff’s Office is adding a drone program, with the purchse of 30 drones. The Albuquerque Journal reported that the aerial devices will be different sizes and will each boast unique features like infrared imaging and high-resolution cameras.
They will be assigned to pilots with various divisions of the department.
Some of the drones will have long battery lives, be able to fly at high altitudes, and have thermal imaging. Drones used to recreate crash and crime scenes will have high-resolution cameras and technology to map out 3D reconstructions.
There are also smaller drones that can go into buildings during ongoing SWAT standoffs or close-quarters situations and provide real-time video to deputies outside.
"We are excited to add drones to our tool belt and provide enhanced safety and support to our community," Sheriff John Allen said in a Facebook post. "Our mission is to protect and serve the people of Bernalillo County and this drone program will help us accomplish that mission."