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Phoenix police and Phoenix fire crews will soon be using drones

Posted at 5:44 PM, Apr 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-06 10:36:21-04

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Police Department hopes high-tech drones will help with investigations. Sergeant Andy Williams says it’s their hope these devices will help see what officers on the ground can’t.

Though, what does the community think about the plan to spend $500,000 on these eyes in the sky?

There was an online public input meeting Tuesday, April 5, at 6 p.m. for District 7 residents to discuss this.

An in-person meeting for District 1 residents is scheduled for April 19 at 7 p.m. It will be held at DoubleTree Hotel, located at 10220 N. Metro Parkway.

It's an effort for those concerned to weigh in, but Phoenix police say having drones is a game-changer; one that starts with protecting human life.

“A drone can go places where we can’t go. It can see things we can’t see,” said Sergeant Williams.

He says, having an eye in the sky will help many bureaus, including the investigative unit.

“It’s going to assist them in building a crime scene more quickly. More accurately. Faster evidence collection,” he added.

Sergeant Williams says SWAT teams could also use the help, using two-way audio and visuals to communicate with a suspect.

“They would be able to use this technology when we are dealing with a potential armed suspect or subject inside of a house or inside of a location,” Sergeant Williams told ABC15.

The City Council granted the Phoenix Police Department $500,000 in funding for drones.

“We had this vote on February 16, just five days after nine officers were shot and or injured in an incident,” said District 1 Councilwoman Ann O’Brien.

Phoenix City Councilwoman Ann O’Brien says, prior to this meeting the council voted in favor of funding drones for Phoenix Fire.

“Getting that up to date, quick recon…reconnaissance on what’s going on is going to be vital,” said Captain Rob McDade saying, they will receive 12 drones and will have 12 pilots assisting in rescues.

“It really was important to me as the fifth largest city in the country, that we no longer have to borrow drones from our neighboring cities,” added Councilwoman O’Brien.

Though, not all council members were in favor.

“I do not feel comfortable giving a blank check to figure out what kind of drones you may want to purchase, knowing the policies or needs that are going to be moving forward,” said District 8 Councilmember Carlos Garcia.

Garcia pointed out during a Phoenix City Council meeting, that the Phoenix Police Department is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice.

As for the privacy concern:

“I looked over the police policy for Phoenix and it has some very good protections in it, such as you’re not allowed routine patrols and so forth. And insisting that it not invade reasonable expectations of privacy,” said Jay Stanley.

Stanley, an ACLU privacy expert, says the community needs to be informed and aware of what those expectations are.

Meantime, Sergeant Williams tells ABC15 the goal with these drones is simply to save lives.

“Without a drone or an unmanned aerial system, is to send an officer into that…into harm's way,” he added.

ABC15 reached out to the City of Phoenix for clarification on specific policies, including restrictions. We’re still waiting to hear back.