By Betsy Finklea
LATTA—The Latta Police Department has established a drone program, which is paying off by improving the safety and welfare of the public as well as their officers.
Latta Police Chief Derrick Cartwright said about three years ago, they began looking into a drone program. They talked with departments that already had a drone program in place including the Richland County Sheriff’s Office.
The drone will be especially helpful during times like hurricanes such as Florence where there was heavy flooding in an area.
With the drone, they can assess the situation as it is happening, which will help improve the safety of residents and emergency responders, and they can take photos to prove the flooding or storm damage in particular areas for insurance purposes.
The drone can also help with locating missing people in a quick and efficient manner.
It can be used to assess crime scenes before officers enter an area. In cases where a suspect has fled into the woods, the drone can be used to find the location of the suspect so that officers aren’t entering an unknown area with no knowledge.
When coupled with the new bloodhound, this will lead to quicker apprehensions of suspects and the missing and help improve officer safety. They also can be used to assess wrecks and take aerial photographs.
The different sizes of the drones serve different purposes. The smaller drone could be used in a case of a school shooting to fly the halls trying to locate a suspect. The larger drone has more attachments and capabilities making it useful in other situations. They have a night waiver allowing them to fly at night as well.
Several of the officers have been trained as remote pilots, and others are in the process of training.
Lt. Josh Holt said they are happy to assist other law enforcement agencies, rescue squads, and fire departments who are in need of the drone in their operations.
Lt. Holt emphasized that they do not take or save videos other than for evidence. Any other videos or footage taken for training is erased. They are not used in any way to invade the public’s privacy.
Chief Cartwright feels that the program will be beneficial to the town, the police department, and other agencies especially in areas of safety.
“If it saves one officer’s life or one person’s life, the cost of the program is well worth it. You can’t put a price on safety or someone’s life,” said Chief Cartwright.