Drones being considered for police, city use in Daleville

BY Jan Murray jmurray@southeastsun.com

Drones being considered for police, city use in Daleville
 “Technology has improved the equipment that we use to battle the criminal element,” said Daleville Department of Public Safety Director Harvey Mathis, “and we must now embrace these technological advances  and seek to become proficient so as we can best serve the public we protect.”Mathis is determined to make sure his officers not only train in the best, most proper ways to handle both people and animals, but also have access to the latest in technological advances.The department has been gradually upgrading its equipment with body cameras, the latest in radar technology and more. Now, the DPS director plans to include money in his 2017 fiscal year budget for a drone program.“It is very important to me to provide the officers with the training and most up-to-date equipment feasible  in their fight against those that choose to prey upon or threaten harm to our citizens,” he explained. “Many have learned in their criminal endeavors a means to avoid law enforcement and ways to find legal loopholes to avoid prosecution.  Our officers need to be smarter and better trained and prepared to deal with those who pose threats to our citizens.”On June 13, Mathis, Mayor Claudia Wigglesworth, police officers, firemen, along with public works supervisors Jerry James and Orson Bullard watched and learned as an area unmanned aircraft expert demonstrated how to use a drone for city purposes.The expert, who preferred to remain unnamed, explained how a drone outfitted with a flir camera would have unlimited uses for the police, fire, rescue and other city departments.A flir camera is a forward looking infrared camera that uses thermographic technology. The expert said that multiple law enforcement agencies throughout the state now use drones which give officers a better perspective of accident scenes, hostage situations, building fires and search and rescue situations. He said the possible uses by law enforcement and other governmental agencies are endless and will keep officers and employees safe since the drone can be used to scope out a variety of situations without endangering a human.Wigglesworth plans to recommend the city council approve the purchase of a drone for the upcoming budget year. She said the estimated cost of a complete drone system is under $2,000.“It’s really beyond law enforcement applications,” said Wigglesworth. “Anytime that you can have a new technology that can support various operations within the city, there is a cost benefit to it. A drone would be something we would use for our law enforcement and public safety, but applications are apparent for our water and sewer and public works department. If we need to inspect sewer lines or manholes that are in the far reaches of the woodlands that are not easy access, that is an application where a drone could come in handy. We could inspect our water towers and the roofs of buildings. There are applications for all of our departments.Meanwhile, Mathis will continue training and preparing his officers for 21st Century service.“While the drone could be used by the city shop and the water department, our intended use is as follows:  to provide digital photographs over crime or accident scenes; for searches for missing people; for searching for suspects or criminals; for assessing firefighting scenes; for real-time footage of high risk search warrants; and for monitoring hazmat situations.“We will never cease  in our training and learning to better ourselves and become the most proficient law enforcement agency we can be. We will avoid complacency. We want to send a clear message to those who want to prey upon citizens and guests, that if you do, we will do all legally possible to first identify you, arrest you, and seek full prosecution through our legal system.”
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