Pueblo’s police department — which the city council has said for years is significantly understaffed — is poised to spend $40,000 on two drones.
The Pueblo Chieftain reports the unmanned aircraft will be mainly for conducting searches, as they’ll be equipped with cameras. One will be for indoor use.
“The small drones would fly at about 30 miles per hour and up to 400 feet high. They could be airborne about 30 minutes before needing to be recharged,” the paper reported. “The City Council raised no objections to the plan, agreeing that the propeller-driven drones could make some investigations and situations safer for officers.”
While Pueblo’s lawmakers aren’t opposed to the drones, studies show that Americans in general aren’t thrilled about police forces using them. According to a survey from Rasmussen Reports, 39 percent of adults oppose local law enforcement utilizing drones while 36 percent favored drone programs.
In recent years some major metropolitan police forces have grounded their drone programs with concerns they were invading privacy. In October, the Economist reported, “Los Angeles’ Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, a body created a year ago by Los Angeles County officials to increase the accountability of its Sheriff’s Department, asked the department permanently to ground its drone, because of worries about privacy and safety.”
Seattle cancelled its drone program in 2013. But still, data shows the trend in police departments picking up drones isn’t slowing.
The Economist goes on:
“A recent report by the Centre for the Study of the Drone at Bard College shows that at least 347 such departments acquired drones between 2009 and 2017. More drones were bought in 2016 than in all previous years combined, says Dan Gettinger, the study’s author. The buying spree shows no sign of slowing.
Growing recognition of how useful such machines can be is one reason for the rapid increase; another cause is the proliferation of affordable, easily operated consumer drones.”
That study also found police are opting for cheaper drones, which can run consumers around $1,200, not ones specifically designed for police and military. It’s unclear what model and type of drone Pueblo’s police department is eyeing.