About 55 miles northwest of New York City, in the southern foothills of the Berkshire Mountains, is the town of Brookfield, Connecticut. The Brookfield Police Department (BPD) is responsible for serving a population of 17,528 people over 20.4 square miles. According to BPD Captian Matthew Donadio, the department began investigating the idea of developing a drone program after recognizing how beneficial the technology could be more than a year and a half ago. Early in 2022, the BPD officially entered a proposal to the township to approve funding for a drone program.
Currently, if the BPD requires aerial assistance from a drone, they rely on one of the drones owned and operated by the neighboring Danbury Fire Department (DFD). As part of the New York Metropolitan Area, the DFD is often called in to assist with drone operations to other neighboring communities, including Manhattan. Detective Lt. Mark Williams of the Danbury Police Department said they often borrow one of the DFD’s two drones to make police work safer and more efficient. “If you have a SWAT team setting up a perimeter on a particular location,” Lt. Williams said, “the use of a drone would give them information, real time, pictures or video of the location they are securing or possibly entering.”
The DFD purchased its first drone 4 years ago thanks to an anonymous donation of $20,000. Soon thereafter, they bought a smaller drone for $6,000. The DFD is honored to share its drone program with those in need, which happens about 7 times a year according to the department’s drone coordinator, James Gagliardo. After receiving drone support from the DFD, the state capital of Hartford also implemented a drone program, and now Brookfield is ready to join the movement as well.
The BPD’s initial proposal has already gained the Brookfield Board of Finance’s support. The department is requesting $15,700 for the allocation of 2 drones and mapping software. The drones will be equipped with HD thermal imaging cameras and speakers to allow an officer to communicate through the drone. The mapping software is something that the BPD is particularly interested in, as it is something that neither Danbury nor Hartford possesses. This software, which the BPD will happily share, will make the mapping of accidents and crime scenes far more accurate and efficient. As per their request, the BPD also said that the software could be used for “overflights, pictures, and mapping of municipality-owned land as requested, inspections of otherwise inaccessible areas or buildings can be performed to identify maintenance or repair needs.”
Though the Board of Finance is showing support for the drone program, they have asked the BPD to provide numbers on future costs, such as those needed for training and licensing. As of now, it stands to reason that the BPD will receive funding before the end of the year, something that Chief Donadio is looking forward to. “We are looking to get in the door to really see what we can use it [the drone and software] for,” said Chief Donadio. “The opportunities are obviously boundless, but our focus is crash photogrammetry and search and rescue, and I think that is probably where it’s going to stay for quite a while.”