July 10, 2024 at 9:40 am

The Denver Police Think Drones Could Be First On The Scene Of 911 Calls

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

Over the past several years, some police departments and their oversight have been searching for ways to police better.

And by better, they mostly mean safer for both the community and the police department.

It’s no secret that pulling up to a 911 call can be scary for the officers, who aren’t totally sure what they’re walking into, and scary for the people on scene, who have to fear for their lives.

So the Denver police department wondered if maybe using a drone first to assess the situation could alleviate some of that pressure.

Several police departments in Colorado already use drones for tasks like mapping crime scenes and trailing suspects who are on the run, and the technology assist in those areas is going very well.

Source: Shutterstock

Some, though, have concerns about privacy and funding when it comes to using those drones to respond to 9-1-1 calls.

Sergeant Jeremiah Gates, the head of the drone unit at the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, doesn’t see the issue, though.

“This really is the future of law enforcement at some point, whether we like it or not.”

He argues that drones can help police prioritize calls, decide whether to send an officer, and help provide an extra layer of safety in the process.

“It’s saving resources. What if we get a call about someone with a gun, and the drone is able to get overhead and see it’s not a gun before law enforcement ever contacts them?”

The detractors, though, think this raises a lot of questions that don’t yet have answers, like how dispatchers would decide whether to send an officer or a drone to a scene first.

Denver Police Department officials say they would not send a drone if a physical officer was requested.

“We would never simple replace calls-for-service response by police officers. The DPD would respond to any call for service where someone is physically requesting  a police officer on scene.”

The public, of course, has concerns about unlawful surveillance. Obviously, having drones equipped with cameras flying around would worry a lot of folks, especially since law enforcement has access to technology like facial recognition.

Source: Shutterstock

ACLU of Colorado staff attorney Laura Moraff detailed these worries in an interview with the Post.

“We’re worried about what it would mean if drones were really just all over the skies in Colorado. Existing under surveillance can change the way people speak and protest.”

She also pointed out that with people already reporting Black people just existing, sending a drone to the scenes of these complaints could be seen as over-policing.

“It can really affect behavior on a massive scale if we are just looking up and seeing drones all over the place, knowing police are watching us.”

I mean, when you put it that way.

I’m not sure most of us are ready for the reality of this future.

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