Aerial Drones for Dallas Police

Dallas Police will now be relying more on technology to address emergency responses by utilizing and sending aerial drones according to a Dallas Morning News article from January 21. In it they say

“Thursday marked the department’s formal introduction of its new drone unit. The five-person team will use aerial drones in search-and-rescue missions, for de-escalation tactics and in building searches, said Dallas Police Sgt. Ross Stinson. The unit was deployed during search efforts for an 11-year-old boy reported missing Thursday in Mountain Creek just south of Grand Prairie.

Dallas police started research and planning for an aerial drone unit in 2015. Drone pilots in the unit have received proper Federal Aviation Administration training, and the department will use several different types of drones, depending on the situation.

About a dozen North Texas law enforcement agencies have already implemented aerial drones in various operations, according to the Atlas of Surveillance project, which has been documenting the adoption of different technologies, including aerial drones, by police. Their uses vary from department to department. In 2020, for example, Fort Worth police started using drones to enforce COVID-19 protocols among homeless populations.

“For some reason, departments are on this big kick where they want to buy drones now, and they’re getting all sorts of funds to purchase the drones,” he said.”

While there are indeed some concerns and questions regarding the use of aerial drones especially those involving in the invasion of privacy, the department assured the public that the drones will not be abused nor will it transgress any rights according to a CBS DFW article from January 12 which reports,

“The department will use the drones for: search and rescue, disaster response, missing persons, fugitive apprehensions, building searches, bombs and hazardous materials, dangerous suspects, planned operations, civil unrest violations and crime scene photography.

It will not, according to a video released by the department, use drones for misdemeanors or offenses resulting in fines only. Also, the department said drone operators will receive training on FAA guidelines and standard operating procedures on privacy concerns related to the 4th amendment.

They will not conduct arbitrary flights violating a person’s right to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures of their belongings. A search warrant will be secured first, and recording on private property won’t occur without a warrant.

The aerial recordings are kept for a minimum of 90 days. But if evidentiary evidence exists, recordings may be kept longer, according to Chief Igo.”

Despite the significant amount of the drones that were already bought and will be bought, the department emphasized that the funds used weren’t pulled out from the COVID-19 funds.