The Pasadena Police Department is planning to acquire specially-designed indoor drones to help capture suspects and perform other operations.
During the Public Safety Committee meeting on November 10, Lieutenant John Mercado said the drones will be used during operations involving barricaded suspects and other incidents where an entry into a building may compromise the safety of the members of the community and police officers.
By using indoor drones, police can better search and communicate with hidden suspects thus reducing the risk of gunfire with suspects who may be armed, according to Mercado.
The department wants to buy Loki MK2 drone sets for $10,824.
The drones would be operated only by Federal Aviation Administration certified operators. The police department will also craft a policy to ensure appropriate use of the indoor drones, Mercado said.
During the meeting, at least four members of the community registered their opposition to the plan, some of them raising concerns as to the possible use of the drones to increase surveillance of Black and brown communities.
“When you think of the ShotSpotter and these drones and more things to bring surveillance to Black and brown communities, it seems like you are turning [the city] into a military zone and you are doing it in the Black and brown neighborhoods,” Heavenly Hughes from My Tribe Rise said.
Councilmember Tyron Hampton said he opposed the acquisition of the drones, saying this might pave the way for the use of other technologies such as robotic weapons.
“I’m normally supportive of technologies in general because it’s less personal interaction, which could be helpful in a lot of cases, but in this case, it kind of reminds me of the story of Dallas, Texas,” Hampton said, referring to the killing of a suspect by the Dallas police through the use of a bomb-equipped robot.
“I’m all supportive of protecting the lives of our police officers and our community members, but technology sometimes could be a hindrance and not lead to the best outcome,” Hampton added.
Expressing support for the plan, Mayor Victor Gordo said the tool would be effective in ensuring the safety of the community members as well as in ensuring that mental health crises will not end in fatal police encounters.
“I can see how this tool would be effective at protecting barricaded suspects as well as officers as well as people around the neighborhood.”
“And so I do applaud the department for looking at technologies and tools to keep our constituents safer and to keep our officers safer.”
In the same meeting, the police department also presented with the committee its plan to reduce the five community service areas to four and to add more officers to each service area.
According to the police department, the reconfiguration, which will be implemented in June, would allow for more discretionary time for community policing, prevention, intervention and enforcement.
All the committee members lauded the plan, with Hampton saying the reconfiguration would be beneficial in building better relationships between the police department and the community members.