LAPD to deploy drones under certain guidelines, officials say

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- After a year-long pilot program, drones are now part of the standard procedure at the Los Angeles Police Department.

They can be deployed under certain guidelines that are limited to tactical situations.

"The only folks that can operate this are SWAT officers, hazardous materials and bomb squad personnel," said Asst. Chief Horace Frank.

Frank stressed approval requires going up the chain of command. It starts with a captain determining it is the only safe way to resolve a situation, getting it signed off by a commander and then a deputy chief.

During the pilot program, a drone was used four times.

Opponents continue to push back. The organization Stop LAPD Spying points to the possible militarization of drones. They argue restrictions could become more relaxed over time and pose privacy concerns. The group is not satisfied with the LAPD's response ensuring there are safeguards in place to protect the individuals' privacy.

Like body worn camera video, police would release footage of a categorical use of force incident.

"The video is recorded and booked in accordance with our body-worn video requirements for the rest of the department," Frank said.

He said the drones are considered a de-escalation device.

"We see these as tools of saving officers' lives. But not just saving officers' lives. Saving the individual on the other end," he said.
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