Sheriff: Expanded use of drones won’t invade privacy in Polk Co.

AP file photos

POLK COUNTY, Fla (WFLA) – Suspects who try to outrun deputies in Polk County should not only expect them to send K-9’s, but also a drone.

The new devices are part of the newly founded Aerial Response Team set to help give deputies on the ground a bird’s-eye view from 300 feet in the air.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says the drones won’t be used to spy on anyone. The devices will be in the air for a purpose.

According to Sheriff Judd, the devices will only be used in a SWAT situation or to track a fleeing suspect or look for a missing person.

Ten deputies are expected to become FAA certified to operate a drone of their own to be used during daylight hours. The devices, which run around $1,500 each, are included in sheriff’s office’s budget.

Judd said deputies will only watch the footage live on a monitor.  “I think it’s important for us to point out that we don’t record at all,” he added.

The drones will be grounded as soon as they’re finished with a search.

“We don’t want to use this and will not use this and cannot legally use this for a patrol function just to see what’s happening or what may happen,” Judd says.

Sheriff Judd is excited for the new technology and believes it will help keep deputies out of harm’s way in emergencies.

“Keep that in mind bad guys. Keep that in mind runners,” said Judd.

The Aerial Response Team will begin assisting on scenes by the end of the month.  The agency plans to purchase more drones, which will be equipped with technology to be used at night.

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