SANTA CRUZ — The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office is considering purchasing three drones to help in its law enforcement operations, and is seeking public input about the idea.
The SCSO will host a public meeting at the end of September, and on Sept. 12 opened a month-long public comment period.
“The Sheriff’s Office regularly seeks public engagement when developing policies for the use of new technologies to increase community trust and access,” SCSO Undersheriff Craig Wilson said.
According to Wilson, the drone will be used for such operations as searching for missing people, responding to explosive or suspicious devices, natural disasters, crime scene documentation and public safety emergencies.
The drones could be used for operations across the county.
Under a set of policies outlined by the Sheriff’s Office, only personnel who have been trained on FAA guidelines would be authorized to use the drones, and their use would be limited to the specific investigation for which they are used.
Any data collected would be stored in accordance with legal standards, Wilson said.
The drones would not be used for random surveillance activities.
In addition, a program coordinator appointed by the Sheriff’s Office will oversee the program.
The estimated $20,000 cost includes three $5,000 drones and training for three operators. It would be covered by the existing SCSO equipment budget.
Wilson said that the Sheriff’s Office has the county’s only search and rescue team, and last year was deployed seven times. The office also has the only bomb team.
In addition, local law enforcement officials in April arrested three suspects who allegedly shot at a civilian and a sheriff’s deputy with the aid of a drone from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, Wilson said.
According to Dronefly, which makes drones for law enforcement agencies, some 347 U.S. police agencies were using drones as of March 2017, which was a 518 percent increase from the previous year.
The public comment period for the use of drones by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office runs through Oct. 12. Comments can be sent to Craig Wilson, Undersheriff, 5200 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, CA 9502 or by emailing [email protected].
The public meeting is scheduled for Sept. 26 at 5:30 p.m. in the Sheriff’s Office Community Room at 5200 Soquel Ave. in Santa Cruz.
For information, visit bit.ly/2Mtjj15.