BY ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
When Tim Izo held his first drone training with the Bend Police Department, there were six officers in the room.
“The program first started about three years ago, I got my first drone about that time and I just started flying around and I just saw how amazing the camera systems were and I just thought that this would be such a great tool for law enforcement to give our officers that situational awareness that you just can’t get anywhere else,” said Izo, chief pilot with the Bend Police Department.
Today, nearly 50 officers from nearly a dozen law enforcement agencies from across the Northwest are in Bend to learn more at the Regional Public Safety UAS Conference.
“What we’re trying to do today is just look at each other’s programs, talk about safety aspects, talk about the kinds of things we can use drones for, talk about our responsibility to the community and our citizens when operating the drones so we can raise that level of professionalism within that community,” said Bend Police Sgt. Tom Pine.
Law enforcement currently uses drones in the field for everything from finding missing children or Alzheimer’s patients, to tracking down criminals.
“Suspects who run from us, fleeing suspects. They’re going through neighborhoods and so forth. We’ll get perimeters set up and then use the drone to see if we can locate them and then we’re communicating that to our guys on the ground so they’re not walking into some unknown situation,” Izo said.
In the future, Izo says he believes every officer will have their own personal department drone to take with them into the field.
“We’re gonna stop sending officers in first to these situations and we’re gonna start putting in these types of aircraft just because you can get so much video info beforehand and you don’t have to send bodies in unexpected places,” he said.
Said Pine: “This is a public safety tool that saves lives, that improves outcomes, for not just law enforcement situations but any public safety situation.”