As a 20-year Culver City resident, I understand the concerns of others that the use of drones may result in problems. However, as a former prosecutor, I have seen that when drones are used according to strict policies, they are effective and can be lifesavers.
There was a time when dash cams in police vehicles and body cameras worn by officers in the field were severely criticized. In due course, and speaking from my experience as a trial attorney, the use of evidence obtained from dash cams and body cameras proved critical in determining how to proceed with a criminal case. At times, such evidence also resulted in my decision to dismiss a case.
As a prosecutor, I had the opportunity to participate in ride-alongs with police officers, sheriffs and CHP officers. When a potentially dangerous suspect was at large, helicopters were called in. Helicopters were helpful, but they were very costly and lacked the advanced technology and precision of a drone.
Anyone reading the updated Culver City Police Department’s Policy Manual on the use of drones will realize it is water tight, hard-hitting on safety, stringent on the respect for privacy and human life, and limited in the scope of actual usage. Drones are valuable to investigate an accident, provide visual precision to pinpoint a suspect, accurately document crime scenes, search for a missing person, communicate crucial evidence in real time, and perhaps of greatest importance, drones can prevent the injury or death of victims, suspects and law enforcement officials. Drones are safe, useful during natural disasters, cost-effective and provide incredibly accurate evidence for the prosecution, defense attorneys, civil attorneys and investigators. The random surveillance by a drone is strictly forbidden.
Once again, I understand why residents are worried, but we must keep in mind that the drone program is a pilot program, and community input will be valuable. Let’s give the program a chance. I am confident that in due course we shall all agree that drones truly enhance our public safety.