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Phoenix votes to speed up the plan to get drones for police

Published: Thursday, February 17, 2022 - 7:28am
Updated: Thursday, February 17, 2022 - 1:23pm
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The Phoenix City Council voted to move forward with a plan for the Phoenix Police Department to buy and use drones. But getting to Wednesday night’s vote ignited frustration among several members.

Less than a week after five Phoenix police officers were shot and four hurt by shrapnel, Councilwoman Ann O’Brien asked, “When is enough enough?” 

After learning Phoenix had to borrow a drone from Glendale to get visuals on the shooting suspect, O’Brien asked the council to speed up a process already underway for Phoenix to buy and use their own. 

“Seven years ago, this conversation started, and councils before ours didn’t get it done, didn’t make any headway,” she said. 

Councilman Sal Diciccio said there’s a reason why: “They could never put together a policy that protected the civil rights of individuals.” 

He, along with Councilmembers Carlos Garcia and Betty Guardado, voted against O’Brien’s motion, which was approved by the majority. 

The city will begin the three- to six-month-long process of advertising and evaluating drone packages while the police department shares a draft policy with the council and community for input. 

“I want to be fully transparent with the policy process, but at the same time I want the procurement process to happen so we’re ready to hit the road running,” O’Brien said.

The Fire Department will begin using drones for mountain rescue calls this summer. When the city’s public safety subcommittee approved the plan in January, Executive Assistant Chief Scott Walker department policies and procedures will be clearly outlined to protect privacy.

“We know that it’s an expectation of our community and our residents that the government is transparent,” he said. “This will allow us to be that, this will allow us to tell people how and why we're doing a drone program, how we’re using it, how we’re protecting your rights. So this will help us to ensure transparency.”

The Phoenix Fire Department expects to launch a community education campaign before launching drones June 1.

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