Criminal Justice

Could cops use drones to serve warrants? Or aid rescues? Ideas to be aired at police conference


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Police departments across the country are considering how drones could help them capture criminals.

Baltimore County police Capt. Don Roby listed some ideas in a memo obtained by the Baltimore Sun in a freedom of information request. Drones could be used to serve high-risk warrants, to aid police in barricade situations, and to record crash or crime scenes, Roby said.

Roby, who is on a national committee addressing drones, will talk about how police can use the unmanned aircraft at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in October.

The county sheriff’s office in Mesa, Colorado, is already using drones, the Baltimore Sun says. They have been used to take photos of traffic accidents and to locate victims in mudslides. The bright yellow devices have a limited flying time of about 30 minutes and aren’t useful for surveillance, however. And they aren’t used unless there is a specific purpose, Ben Miller of the sheriff’s office told the Baltimore Sun.

“We’re not flying over to look for activity to give people a $50 ticket,” he said. He added that drone images are deleted immediately unless they record evidence.

Despite the possible uses for drones, police have been slow to adopt them. The story notes privacy concerns and pending action by the Federal Aviation Administration, which is drafting guidelines for their use.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Eye-in-the-sky surveillance a new tool for US cities; is spying via camera while flying too prying?”

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