Police Foundation Proposes Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Maintaining Public Safety

Public safety is a fundamental mission for all professional law enforcement agencies. To fulfill this mission, law enforcement leverages various types of tools, including new and upcoming technologies. One of these newest technologies is the small-unmanned aircraft system (sUAS).

The Police Foundation is starting a new Center for law enforcement agencies thinking about using sUAS. As sUAS technology continues to develop and its use becomes progressively widespread, the goal of the Police Foundation Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Public Safety is to help law enforcement steer the equally significant community policing aspects of accepting the technology, including community concerns associated with privacy and civil rights, the development of policy and procedure, transparency and accountability, and operational safety. They conduct scientific research to inspect the real-world challenges of policing and public safety, and work meticulously with policy staff in the translation of scientific findings and development of evidence-based proposals for the field.

The website is envisioned as a resource to help law enforcement agencies make a knowledgeable decision on whether to purchase sUAS, and if they do, how to form policies and procedures that will help garner public acceptance, avoid drawbacks, and boost community trust. The website is also meant to provide insight for the public on the benefits of sUAS for public safety, and the many deliberations that go into sUAS program execution.

While this type of technology has substantial potential to enhance operational efficiency as well as officer and community safety, there are understandable and genuine concerns about privacy risks. To answer these concerns and to enhance sUAS programs, law enforcement agencies considering using sUAS technology are encouraged to keep an eye on the principles of community policing in their adoption and to engage their communities early on in the decision to execute a program.

sUAS technologies provide law enforcement agencies with unique capabilities for rapid, safe, economical and effective responses to a wide variety of public safety tactical challenges. Harnessing these capabilities requires not only the skills to operate the technology, but the input and understanding of the community and a pledge to operate the technology in a transparent manner. Taking the time to engage the community, address concerns and gain input from the community is exactly what community policing is all about.

Jim Bueermann, President of the Police Foundation and former Chief of Police in Redlands, California

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice, supported the development of this website and various other resources including an infographic, Five Things You Need to Know about sUAS in Law Enforcement publication, and a guidebook.

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