Police Foundation launches new center for UAS in public safety

By Police Foundation | July 31, 2018

Ensuring the safety of the public is a core mission for all professional law enforcement agencies. In pursuit of this mission, law enforcement leverages many different types of tools, including new and emerging technologies. One of these latest technologies is the small-unmanned aircraft system (sUAS).

The Police Foundation is launching a new Center for law enforcement agencies considering the use of small unmanned aircraft systems. As sUAS technology continues to advance and its use becomes increasingly widespread, the goal of the Police Foundation Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Public Safety is to help law enforcement navigate the equally important community policing aspects of adopting the technology, including community concerns related to privacy and civil rights, transparency and accountability, the development of policy and procedure, and operational safety. We conduct scientific research to examine the real-world challenges of policing and public safety, and work closely with policy staff in the translation of scientific findings and development of evidence-based recommendations for the field.

The website is intended as a resource to help law enforcement agencies make an informed decision on whether to acquire sUAS, and if they do, how to develop policies and procedures that will help garner public support, avoid pitfalls, and build community trust. The website is also intended to provide insight for the public on the advantages of sUAS for public safety, and the many considerations that go into sUAS program implementation.

While this type of technology has significant potential to improve operational efficiency as well as officer and community safety, there are understandable and legitimate concerns about privacy risks. To address these concerns and to improve sUAS programs, law enforcement agencies considering adopting sUAS technology are encouraged to follow the principles of community policing in their adoption and to engage their communities early on in the decision to implement 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,” said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation and former Chief of Police in Redlands, California. “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.”