AKRON, Ohio — Drones are being used across the country by law enforcement for public safety, and it looks like the Akron Police Department is following in other departments' footsteps.
According to APD Captain Chris Brewer, the department plans to purchase a drone this spring, which he says they plan to use in two different areas.
“The drones are being purchased for our Crime Scene Unit and they’ll also be work with our traffic reconstruction officers,” says Captain Brewer.
That means the drones will capture 360-degree images from crime scenes and help the team that investigates vehicle crashes. Akron City Council President Margo Summerville says the City Council wants to invest in law enforcement technology and be transparent about the changes.
“People are afraid of what they don’t know and so we can bridge that gap a little closer if we keep talking, sharing, and educating the public on what the police are actually doing,” Sommerville said.
By using items like police body cameras, updating the 25-year-old 911- Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, and investing in a $4,000 drone thanks to a grant, police say they will be more efficient and better able to protect residents.
There is a track record in law enforcement that shows the value of drones.
In October, the Atlanta Police Department used their drone to help the SWAT team safely apprehend a suspect in a tense murder investigation. Captain Brewer says an assist from a drone in this type of situation is possible for the Akron Police, as well.
“Can I see them using them maybe for SWAT as an overwatch to see if someone runs out the backside of a building or making sure officers don’t have someone sneaking up on them, I could see that, but there are no plans at all to use these for surveillance at this time, just crime scene investigation and accident reconstruction,” says Captain Brewer.
Tri-C Police Chief Clayton Harris trains public safety personnel how to fly drones and says this kind of technology is here to stay.
“If you can use technology, specifically an unmanned aerial vehicle in order to accomplish a lot of these tasks that are needed to be taken care of, without the chance of injuring a life, then they should be used,” says Chief Harris.
The Akron Police Department is not the first law enforcement drone program in Northeast Ohio. One regional group in existence for 10 years is the Valley Aviation Group UAV Team which works with more than a dozen police departments that need a drone for various situations.