MANSFIELD — The Richland County Sheriff’s Office will soon have eyes in the sky.
County commissioners on Thursday approved spending $19,997 to purchase a professional-grade drone for the sheriff’s department.
Capt. Jim Sweat told commissioners the Maurice 210 V2 drone is identical to the aerial platforms used by police departments in Mansfield and Ontario.
“It’s a very capable drone for what we need to do in law enforcement,” Sweat said. “It’s definitely a force multiplier and will enhance officer and public safety.”
Sweat described how an MPD drone was able to monitor activity during a large protest in Mansfield in 2020 without officers having to interact with participants.
At one point, Sweat said, there was an allegation there were weapons being pulled in a wagon by protestors.
“The drone was able to fly above and officers were able to see there were no weapons. They managed to do this without having to interact with the protestors,” Sweat said.
He said the RCSO has lower-quality drones, but none as capable as the one being requested, which has a thermal-imaging camera for use in nighttime searches.
Sweat said one of the department’s “special deputies” is a licensed drone pilot and will assist the department with paperwork needed for other department employees to be able to operate the drone.
He said the FAA has exceptions that allow law enforcement departments to operate a drone without having to obtain a license.
“Our plan is to have sufficient numbers of employees (FAA) certified to operate this drone,” Sweat said.
Commissioners Tony Vero and Cliff Mears said they believed the drone was needed.
“We want to be the leaders in law enforcement in the county,” Vero said. “We do have the capital funds for it.”
Mears told Sweat, “I think it’s a necessary tool for you to do your job.”