Drone Program Receives High Marks
December 19, 2019
Prior to the council meeting a demonstration was held in the courtyard at city hall with drones taking off, landing and hovering over the area. A Culver City Fire Department Battalion Chiefs SUV was outfitted with a large screen showing live footage from the drone overhead.
The drones are used under strict guidelines to ensure proper use combining public safety and privacy. The deployment must be approved by a supervisor. The report citied that, "During the first nine months of the UAV pilot program, the UAVs have been deployed twenty-four times. It should be noted that there were fourteen deployments outside of Culver City, all of which were either related to a crime originating in Culver City, or in response to a request for assistance from an outside agency."
In a video shown at the meeting robbery suspects from Culver City are being pursued into Ladera Heights. A patrol officer who doubles as a drone pilot was in the area and launched the drone. The video shown at the council meeting found one suspect jumping over walls to evade officers. The drone followed the suspect and with no officers in sight he saw the drone overhead and put his hands in the air to surrender. CCPD Captain Jason Sims commented that they had not anticipated anyone surrendering to a drone. He went on to say that among the benefits were that the officers were safe, the public was safe, and the suspect was safe. As officers arrived, they were able to safely take the suspect into custody.
Speakers were almost in unanimous support of the program citing the safety provided to the public and first responders. One written card objected to the program as drones are being purchased from a company that provides weapons to the military. Council members were general pleased with the report which will be reviewed again prior to the program becoming permanent. Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells cited the police departs efforts to build the trust of the council and the public.