Police Drone Purchase Approved for Oregon City, Ohio

The unanimously approved drone will include a zoom lens, high-resolution camera, thermal camera, training for 10 officers, mapping software, and an iPad Mini for controlling the drone.

by Jay Skebba, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio / June 28, 2016

(TNS) -- Oregon City, Ohio's police and fire departments will soon be the sole owners of an unmanned aircraft, or drone.

Oregon City Council voted unanimously tonight to purchase a Matrice 100 quadcopter from Toledo Aerial Media for $35,449.

The device is built to military specifications, and the price includes a zoom lens, high-resolution camera, thermal camera, two batteries, carrying case, training for 10 officers, mapping software, and an iPad Mini for controlling the drone.

Representatives from Toledo Aerial conducted a demonstration prior to the meeting for council members and city officials.

Police Chief Mike Navarre said the drone could be used in hostage and barricade situations, as well as search and rescue efforts — especially in water. The fire department can also use it to detect and attack the hottest spots in fires.

Councilman Tim Zale, a retired Oregon Police detective, thinks the drone will bring only positives to the community.

“It also has a clamp on it where we can actually drop items to people,” Mr. Zale said. “We can drop a life jacket to someone in distress or pull a rope across a certain area if we had to rescue someone with it.”

The drone can fly as high as 400 feet and is equipped with object avoidance technology. Its battery lasts 40 minutes. Chief Navarre said the device can do in a half hour what it would take someone on the ground several hours to perform.

Original plans called for Oregon to buy a $75,000 Lockheed Martin drone to share with Toledo Police and the Lucas County Sheriff's Office, but Toledo City Council would not give approval for TPD's share.

Chief Navarre applied for a state grant to fund the purchase, but did not receive it.

Council also approved the purchase of 45 body-worn cameras for all police officers by a vote of 5-1. The units are manufactured by COBAN, and cost $51,405 for all 45 cameras. COBAN also makes the cameras currently installed in Oregon's police vehicles.

“It's a great tool for our officers and provides accountability for the department,” Chief Navarre said.

Funds are set aside in the city budget for the purchases.

Mr. Zale voted against the cameras, citing potential issues with public access to recordings, especially those of crime victims.

“I think there's a lot of issues with them that no one seems concerned about that concern me,” he said. “We are potentially catching these people at the worst time of their lives. We don’t want that on the internet.”

Mr. Zale also mentioned body cameras don’t necessarily capture the full scene. He also prefers cameras with redaction software, which COBAN does not manufacture.

“What we have to gain is a lot more than what we have to lose,” Mayor Michael Seferian said.

©2016 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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