Rochester police are getting a drone to assist officers in high-risk situations
The Rochester Police Department is adding a new gadget to its toolbox.
At the request of Police Chief Roger Peterson, the city council included a $72,400 program for an unmanned aerial vehicle in its 2017 budget. The cost includes the drone itself, plus additional equipment, software and training.
The drone — which comes equipped with a camera able to capture thermal and nighttime images — will be used in emergency situations. Those may include rescue operations, missing person cases and hostage situations.
"The main purpose of the drone is to save lives," said Officer Reynaldo Caban, one of the few individuals on staff who will be authorized to use the device.
Having a drone will help the department move quicker and save resources, said Caban. For example, rather than having to wait for the state patrol to send down a helicopter, officers could put the UAV in the air and send a live feed back to the command center. Or in a situation when an elderly person wanders off, the drone could help cover ground faster and keep more officers on the streets.
The device will not be used for surveillance. However, images collected from the camera will be stored by the department and subject to the Minnesota Data Practices Act. Rochester's Police Oversight Commission will review the program next Monday and vote to adopt guidelines regulating its use.
Once a policy is put into place, it may still be a couple months before the drone arrives and officers are trained to use it, said Caban.
(Cover photo: Stock image / CC)