Nov 30, 2023 - News

NOPD to begin using drones

Illustration of a police light on a drone.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The New Orleans Police Department is set to join hundreds of other law enforcement agencies across the country in adding drones to its crime-fighting arsenal.

Why it matters: NOPD is still working on its drone policy, which would lay out guidelines for using the controversial technology in its day-to-day operations.

The NOPD policy says its drones would be deployed in a variety of use cases, including search and rescue operations, hazardous spills, suspect searches, documenting crime scenes and monitoring special events.

The big picture: More than 1,400 American police departments already use drones, according to an ACLU report, which cautioned "communities [to] think very carefully about whether they want drone surveillance" over concerns they "will usher in an era of pervasive, suspicionless, mass aerial surveillance."

  • Drones used by police "generally … don't carry weapons and are used primarily for video surveillance," according to The Marshall Project.
  • In Chula Vista, where drones have been used since 2018, the tech offered response times in under two minutes, The Marshall Project reported. Median response times in New Orleans are over 30 minutes, according to city data.

Between the lines: As the roster of commissioned officers continues to drop, recently appointed NOPD Chief Anne Kirkpatrick has said she wants to bring in more tech to help the department.

  • Ten NOPD officers are already trained to fly the department's four drones, NOPD says.
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