Shelby County Sheriff’s Department Wants Drones
(Memphis) Operated by remote control, they could be high-tech toys, but the four-pound flying machines can do detective work 400 feet in the air.
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office believes small drones could be used to scope out marijuana farms, map out crime scenes and even find missing children.
“We could use the camera capability to fly over a certain area where we might think this child could be,” said Lt. Perry McEwen, with the Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office hopes to purchase two drones with a grant from the Department of Homeland Security, but first it needs permission from Shelby County Commissioners.
“The fear is that it will be misused,” said Commissioner Brent Taylor.
Taylor said he plans to vote against the idea, “If you give government a power and its left unchecked, they will abuse it.”
Taylor said guidelines are needed for the new technology and procedures need to be put in place as to what authorities can and can not do.
But Lt. McEwen said there’s no need for that.
“We have taken oaths as law enforcement officers,” he said. “We can’t use the equipment and break the law.”
Lt. McEwen said law enforcement have already used a similar form of surveillance for years: helicopters.
But the difference is the cost.
Helicopters can run about $600 an hour to operate, versus drones at $3.80.
Taylor said he’s still not buying it.
“If you are in your yard and a police helicopter flies overhead and you don’t want them taking pictures of you, you can go inside,” he said. “With these drones, you won’t know they’re there.”
And that’s partly why the Sheriff’s Department predicts drones will be a powerful crime-fighting tool.
County commissioners voted on the issue Wednesday.
Four were in favor of the drones and three against them.
Another vote is expected Monday.
If approved, the drones could be in the air within six to 10 weeks.