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Culver City Police Hope to use Drones in Law Enforcement by 2018

Image is of a white drone against a blue sky.The Culver City Police Department is about to go hi-tech. Like other area police departments, the Culver City P.D. could be using drones in their police work by the end of the year. The department believes that drones can be a useful tool in helping fight crime and also helping protect offices as well as the public. Martin Feinberg, Culver City Realtor, is excited about their possibilities.

At this year’s budget negotiations, the City Council agreed to set aside $70,000 in city funds for the police department to purchase equipment for the drones. The department hopes to be able to buy two operational drones and two drones that would be used to help train officers. If all goes according to plan, the drones would be in place by the end of December, or early spring at the latest.

According to Captain Jason Sims, “use of the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) will be a joint effort between the police department and the fire department. Currently we’re asking for bids for the equipment that we need for the program.”

Specifically, drones are useful when searching for suspects in dense or dark areas, and areas where it is difficult for an officer to safely or quickly access on foot.

Sims used the 2016 robbery of the One West Bank branch in Raintree Plaza as an example of how useful drones could be. In that instance, the suspects were able to temporarily escape on foot by running into the Culver City Real Estate neighborhood near El Rincon Elementary School. Though they were eventually captured, Sims says that use of a drone would have aided in their apprehension.

“We think they would be very effective as a law enforcement and as a public safety tool in conditions like the pursuit of a suspect, a bomb threat, in an active shooter situation or [the One West Bank robbery],” the captain said.  “We see them as a vital public safety tool that can not only help protect our officers but our citizens as well.”

The Los Angeles Police Department procured two drones last May from the Seattle Police Department, but has not yet been able to use them because of public scrutiny. However, the L.A. Police Commission recently voted 3-1 to authorize a pilot program that will allow drones to be used by SWAT teams in “dangerous, high-risk tactical situations and improve situational awareness capabilities during natural disasters and catastrophic incidents.”

Some citizens of other communities have been concerned that police use of drones has the potential to cause a loss of privacy for residents. Others are concerned with loss of civil liberties due to “government surveillance.”

Captain Sims says that he is very aware of the anxiety that government use of drones can cause. He stated that the Culver City police department will take the proper steps to make sure no residents’ rights are violated when drones are in use.

“We’re very sensitive to these concerns and we’re working on a policy that would be very specific.”

City Councilwoman Meghan Sahli-Wells promised, “We’re not going to be flying the drones on a systematic basis.” Sahli-Wells was at Raintree Plaza in 2016 on the day of the bank robbery and agrees that drones can be useful in fighting crime. “Drones can be activated much quicker than a helicopter and cause less noise pollution.”

Martin Feinberg, Realtor, was glad to know that those Culver City police officers who will be operating the drones will be required to attend additional training and that all drones must receive clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration before they can be deployed.

Image is a picture of a beach taken by a drone.