LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Police may soon begin using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during manhunts, standoffs and other “tactical events”, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday.
The LAPD obtained two UAVs – otherwise known as drones – from the Seattle Police Department last week at no cost to the city, according to officials.
The Seattle Police Department originally purchased the Draganflyer X6 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles using federal grants. The drones are currently being kept at an undisclosed federal law enforcement facility “pending review by the LAPD and the Board of Police Commissioners” and the public, according to the LAPD.
Each remote-controlled copter is about three feet in width, has three rotors and is equipped to carry a video camera.
During a news conference Thursday at LAPD headquarters, Chief Beck said the UAVs could be used in police “standoffs, perimeters, suspects hiding…we’re interested in those applications.”
He also defended the decision by the LAPD to pursue the drones by pointing to the fact that such devices are already “in the hands of private citizens” and businesses.
“When retailers start talking about using them to deliver packages, we would be silly not to at least have a discussion of whether we want to use them in law enforcement,” Beck said.
Last December, private companies such as UPS and Amazon announced they would begin flight-testing drones to possibly use them for deliveries.
The department plans to work closely with the American Civil Liberties Union to ensure the drones would not infringe on individual privacy rights, Beck said.
It wasn’t immediately clear when the devices – which will first undergo a “vetting process”, according to Beck – would make their LAPD debut. The police chief noted that he is “in absolutely no hurry whatsoever to deploy these instruments.”
The LAPD must first obtain a certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration before the aircraft can be used, and that application process is in the very preliminary stages, police said last week.
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