Drones used during 911 calls in Brookhaven

Brookhaven Police Department has launched a drone program that’s first-of-its-kind in Georgia and the entire Southeast.

The Drone as First Responders, or DFR, program uses drones to survey and give real-time video of a location, stated officials. Brookhaven Police Chief Gary Yandura said the program, which began in November, is unique because drones will be dispatched during every 911 call in the city.

“This allows our officers to have real-time information before they arrive on scene,” said Yandura.

According to Lt. Abrem Ayana, the process of building the DFR program specifically for Brookhaven police involved conversations with local neighborhood associations, DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston, and ACLU of Georgia. “We want people to feel safe and secure but not feel like the government is maintaining and keeping video files of their movements,” he said.

Policies for the DFR program include that the drones will only be dispatched to 911 calls and not used for patrol; police will not use drones to target a person based solely on individual characteristics such as race, origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation; police will not use drones to harass or intimidate any individual or group; and the drones will not be used to conduct personal business of any kind.

Videos captured by the drones will be purged after 30 days if they did not record a criminal incident, stated officials.

Ayana said 16 police officers in Brookhaven are licensed the operate the unmanned aircrafts.

At a recent drone demonstration held by Brookhaven police for the public, Councilwoman Linley Jones called the new program “forward-thinking when it comes to public safety.”

“Having these drones as first responders on the scene will enable our officers to know exactly what’s going on at a location before they arrive,” she said. “These drones are battery-powered, leave no carbon footprint at all, and they lead officers to the scene to let them know what’s going on and give them intel and information about what they’re about to encounter before they arrive. This is a wonderful tool for community safety and the safety of our officers.”

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