When a crime is reported to local police in Santa Monica, the first responder on the scene may be a drone.

Police Drones To Respond To Emergency Calls

Drones, facial recognition, and other technology have advanced rapidly, and law enforcement is quickly adopting them. Now in Santa Monica, a drone might be the first to the scene instead of an armed officer.

Sergeant Derek Leone of the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) says a drone might be sent to the scene when there is “a call for service or any law enforcement activity … that the officers could benefit from situational awareness and a view from overhead and a quick response.”

Privacy rights activists are worried about opening the door to drone use and where it might lead.

Officers Will Respond, Too

Officers respond, as well. But most of the time, the drone will get there first, rushing to a set of GPS coordinates punched in by the controller. Sometimes it is there in as fast as 30 seconds.

“It’s a fundamental change in the way that we can bring policing services to our city,” said Peter Lashley, a police force veteran who often pilots the drone from a screen-filled command center inside the police station.

How Does It Work?

The drone’s powerful camera can view several square blocks or zoom in close enough to read a license plate.

For example, a drone camera was the only witness to a brutal robbery, and one of the two suspects was apprehended and convicted.

Officials report that the drone provides responding officers with critical, otherwise unobtainable information, so far on at least three occasions.

This insight is supposed to allow officers to respond much less aggressively.

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