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Sun, Nov 12, 2023

Montgomery Council Approves Police Drone

Local PDs Cotton to UAVs as Capabilities Improve

The nascent boom in small town law enforcement operations adopting drones as first responders continues, with Montgomery County Maryland as the newest addition to the club.

After a unanimous approval vote, the MCPD will kickstart its “Drone As First Responder pilot program, which will acquire a pair of drones to pre-screen and scout out calls before human officers arrive on the scene. The drones offer a quick, cheap way to check for threats, to gauge the level of response needed, or even reassure callers that help is indeed on the way. Like many councils faced with the decisions, attention was paid to the less-than-stellar optics of hovering panopticon-bots meandering their way around town. The program will only use the drones to respond, and not to patrol.

“This is not surveillance. This is about reducing the response of police and using technology in the right way, which in my view is a good thing,” said councilmember Natali Fani-Gonzalez. “I look forward to seeing this program implemented in my district.” The drones won't have facial recognition tech, and they won't be permitted for use during "1st amendment protected events" according to the Montgomery Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security. Of course, there're exceptions to that - MCPD can use the drones as they wish, as long as there's an 'immediate safety concern or threat'. 

“This technology is going to help prevent some unnecessary contacts and investigative inquiries that may not be warranted,” said Captain Jason Cokinos, director of the Montgomery County Police Department special operations division. “We want to be the least intrusive to the public. We only want to focus on what we need to focus on, or the crime or the call.”

FMI: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/POL/index.html

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