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Santa Fe Police Department announces new drone program

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The Santa Fe Police Department announced a new drone program last week. The department said the five new drones will be employed in search and rescue missions, among other uses.

Deputy Chief of Police Operations Matthew Champlin said the drones will also be used for officer safety when approaching a potentially armed person or getting aerial footage of a crime scene or developing situation.

“If we had something let's say happening at a mall or at the plaza or anything where we would put a drone up in, it would be beneficial for a sergeant to be able to see the aerial view of something and make command decisions based on that,” he said.

Drones are not new to law enforcement in the state. The New Mexico State Police, Albuquerque Police Department and Bernalillo County Sheriff, among others, make use of them.

Champlin said the drones will not be used to invade privacy of citizens or surveil for crime.

Jennifer Burrill is the president-elect of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and told the Santa Fe New Mexicanon Friday that use of drones by local law enforcement is still “deeply concerning” and is something her organization will be monitoring.

The American Civil Liberties Union also released a reportlast week saying that there is very little oversight or accountability for the over 1,400 police departments in the U.S. that use drones. It also cited examples of police departments using drones for routine patrols or to respond to 911 calls, including ones regarding wellness checks, mental health evaluations and noise complaints.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners. 

Megan Myscofski was a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project.
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