Once Again, Shelby County, TN Law Enforcement Turns to Drones

Tennessee isn’t known for aggressively promoting the development of a domestic drone industry.  It ranks 29th on the Mercatus Center’s annual ranking of states and their “readiness” to accommodate business drone fliers and hobbyists.  But in one area – law enforcement – interest in drones in Tennessee has been rising rapidly.

In fact, Nashville’s Police Department has been flying drones for nearly a decade. So has the police department in the nearby suburb of Spring Hill. Spring Hill’s PD already has an entire fleet of drones and deploys them frequently to conduct expedited crime and accident scene analysis and to perform search-and-rescue missions with thermal imaging cameras that can rapidly identify lost and missing persons, even at night.

The latest Tennessee jurisdiction to embrace drones is Shelby County, located about 200 miles southwest of Nashville, just outside Memphis. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office (SVSO) acquired a lone drone back in 2015, primarily for SWAT missions. SWAT uses its drone to size up hostage scenarios in advance – and to communicate with armed suspects and their captives remotely – without having to deploy an entire team of officers, placing them in harm’s way.  The drone deescalates violent encounters and saves lives

But in recent years, with the growth in population, traffic and street crime in Shelby County – and pressure on police manpower levels — the SCSO has been looking for new ways to reduce its costs and deploy its limited resources more effectively.  And once again, it’s turning to drones.

Chief Deputy Clay Hammac says the SCSO has been reviewing the experience of police forces with drones across the country and will soon approach the county for funding to expand its current UAV fleet.  It’s also considering whether drones could be used as emergency first responders, in response to 911 calls, and for routine patrolling in high-crime areas, both as a deterrent and to allow for a faster tactical response to unfolding incidents.

Hammac says acquisition of the new drone fleet will be conducted in phases, following the state’s bidding procedures. The drones will be integrated into the Sheriff Office’s existing aviation units but will likely substitute for helicopters in missions requiring more immediate aerial support.  Drones can deploy more rapidly and operate more quietly and surreptitiously, giving police an additional tactical advantage; they’re also cheaper and easier to maintain, and can reduce the department’s carbon footprint, he says.

Hammac says the SCSO’s move to expand its drone fleet vis part of a nationwide “paradigm shift” in drone policing.  More departments are moving away from a limited tactical role for drones toward integrating them strategically in day-to-day policing to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, de-escalate the threat of violence and reduce officer and citizen casualties.

While Shelby County residents are likely to welcome expanded drone use, some new roles could prove controversial. Many police departments have avoided using drones for routine police patrolling in crime ridden neighborhoods due to concerns over possible racial profiling.  Others have allowed warrantless overflights on a more limited basis, during weekends or holidays and just to monitor large-scale public events.

Hammac says the SCSO is sensitive to concerns about potential police abuses with drones and will continue to observe strict protocols in their use.  Shelby residents will have every opportunity to weigh in on the scope of new drone missions when the county takes up the department’s funding requests, he notes.

Nearby Memphis police haven’t yet taken the drone plunge.  The MPD has a single drone at its disposal but hasn’t yet decided to create an entire fleet.  However, a private film company, SMS Novel, was contracted last November to conduct a pilot test of drones in areas hard hit by robberies, car jackings, and open-air shootings.

ABOUT US: DroneVideos.com is a Nationwide Media Company specializing in custom Drone Videos for real estate, commercial, farms, construction, golf courses, roof inspections and more. All of our Drone Operators are fully licensed and insured. When you purchase a Drone Video Package from us, you will receive a video professionally edited, color corrected and presented to you on an SEO-Friendly webpage that you can easily share online and on Social Media with a click of a button. Click here to get started.
Start Your Order
We Offer a Variety of Drone Video Packages
to Fit Your Needs and Budget