Local police departments are now using drones to help them in life threatening situations. The LAPD used a drone in this manner for the first time when they deployed it to spy on a suspect whom they believed was hiding out in a second floor apartment. They sent the small drone to hover outside the suspect’s window and transmit a live video feed so that the officers could pinpoint his exact location.
The feed from the drone showed that the suspect was not in the room. This allowed the officers to enter the premises safely with the knowledge that the suspect was not hiding. The standoff in question happened in Koreatown. It lasted 9 hours before the suspect was caught and it was the first time that the LAPD has used a drone for such an operation. This adds the LAPD to the ever growing list of law enforcement officials across the nation who are using drones for police activity.
The LAPD was gifted the drone as part of a pilot program. The program was approved in October of 2017 by a commission that was overseen by a five person civilian panel which was created to oversee drone use. The commission was created when residents protested the use of drones out of privacy concerns. The drones that the commission approved for use by the police force are very similar to the models that hobbyists use.
12 SWAT officers have been certified to fly these drones as of July, 2018. They are only using the drone for a police operations because the rules laid out by the Police Commission state that drones can only be used in situations that involve barricaded suspects, explosive devices, or active shooters. The president of the Police Commission pointed out they had to go through a lot of red tape before they could use the drone. Other situations where the drone may be used include hostage situations, search-and-rescue operations, and searches for suspects who are carrying ‘superior firepower’.
The situation with the suspect in Koreatown counted as such a situation. The police were worried that the suspect’s position in an upper story apartment gave him a sweeping view of the area which allowed him to see the advancing officers. They could have used a dangling camera instead of a drone but that would have put the officers at risk while they installed it. Officer Steve Hernandez is happy to see the drones being used. He says that they make police officers safer and allow them to see things in situations where they would have otherwise been forced to expose themselves.