police drone

An aircraft remotely piloted—or more commonly known as a drone—is likely to be the next tool in the Rochester Police Department’s tactical toolbox. Before the department tries buying any equipment, making a policy on the usefulness of such equipment will first be put into consideration.

Rochester Police Policy Oversight Commission was given a second update on policy draft by a Department staff. The commission refused to partake in drafting the policy but preferred to take part in the final review version of the policy after it might have been approved by the staff of the police command.

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Administrative Services Manager Sarah Clayton and Officer Rey Caban had led the Department’s efforts in policy drafting, which they had based on the guidelines made available by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“We’re trying to be as transparent as possible,” Clayton said. “We understand the community has privacy concerns. The commission has privacy concerns.”

Clayton and Caban were as well going after the state legislation on the draft policy guidance, according to Caban. At the Minnesota Legislature, there is a bill in session that would efficaciously ban the use of remote-controlled aircraft for surveillance or gathering of data but it would still allow drone being used for definite emergency situations and with a court-issued warrant in some cases.

Some situations that could bring about the use of drone might include monitoring a public building, tracking or finding a missing child, or responding to a barricaded person in their home by the police, Caban said.

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The members of staff of the police demanded comments on the draft policy from the commission member Lawrence Collins but the latter tactically declined, rather said that as an oversight body, the commission’s comments are reserved.

“I’m concerned that we’re crossing the line between policy oversight and policy making. This is not a policy making commission,” said Collins.

“My expectation would be that the police department would formulate the final version of this policy and then present it to the commission for review and comments, as the ordinance provides,” Collins said, referring to the regulation that established the oversight commission and outlined its role.

It was pointed out by Don Barlow, a commission member, that the department had not indicated whether it had intentions to buy a remote-controlled aircraft—neither was the item included in the 2016 budget of the department. And Roger Peterson, police chief, had not informed the commission whether it would be included in the 2017 budget. But if it were to be included in the 2017 budget, certain things must be put into consideration, including the operational use of drones, training of personnel, data storage, etc.

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The policy would continue to be refined by the police staff and they would return it to the commission after the police command staff might have approved it, Clayton said.

The information already in the draft policy includes the department’s role in drone deployment, drone monitoring, drone pilot training, drone operations procedures, and keeping of data captured by the device.

The draft policy, if finally approved, would help curb the excessive use of drones, identify individual drones, monitor, arrest, and prosecute anyone found guilty in the law court violating the rules and regulations laid down by the legislation law with regard to the use of the device throughout the U.S. environment.

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