Drones are coming to the Prince William County Police Department.
Today, we learned the department would use the Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or “sUAS,” for intelligence gathering to keep officers at a safe distance during a crisis or threat to the public and locate people who have been reported missing.
The department notes:
The Police Department has followed the development of sUAS technology over the years and recognized the benefits of implementing a program in Prince William County. A committee was established to begin researching and studying the use of this technology in public safety operations. The committee explored best practices, policies, and procedures regarding the use of sUAS in law enforcement and identified the right equipment and devices to meet needs. During this process, the committee’s primary focus was to ensure policies and procedures were developed to protect civil liberties and the community’s right to privacy while these systems are in operation.
Nearing the operational deployment phase, the program in Prince William County will consist of a part- time unit of five officers who have completed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part-107 pilot certification course. These systems will only be deployed by these licensed members who have achieved this certification and other necessary, rigorous training to demonstrate proficiency in the system use. Any new members to the unit will be required to complete the same training and certification prior to any incident deployment.
Additionally, police said it would use drones to reconstruct crash scenes, document crimes scenes. According to its press release, the Department will never utilize this equipment on routine patrol, random surveillance, immobilizing vehicles or suspects, or as a weapon or equipped with a weapon.
Drones aren’t new to area law enforcement agencies. The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office uses drones for years to locate everything from missing children to wanted suspects.
In 2019, the state tapped the agency to show demonstrate its drone program to law enforcement agencies.