Commission will review sheriff’s drone policy

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The Public Safety Commission on Monday will get a first look at major equipment, technology and security enhancements coming to WeHo and the Sheriff’s Department.

City Council in December directed staff to draft policies that would address both community and operational concerns relating to the introduction of drones as first responders, the installation of fixed real-time cameras, and the establishment of a Real-Time Watch Center. The draft policies put a strong emphasis on the transparency of data usage, accessibility, data retention, sharing policies, and rigorous audits to prevent any misuse of data or technology.

The proposed Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) policy specifies that only authorized personnel of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station or those in designated auxiliary units could operate drones. These drones would be deployed for a variety of purposes including response to emergency calls, search and rescue operations, surveillance during high-risk tactical operations, disaster response efforts, and documentation at crime scenes or traffic investigations.

Significantly, the policy outlined strict prohibitions against the use of drones for tracking individuals for the purpose of relaying information to states where legal standards differ, or for any operations related to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Furthermore, the policy forbids the use of drones to record or photograph peaceful and legal demonstrations with the intent of identifying participants.

Privacy concerns were meticulously addressed in the policy, ensuring measures were in place to prevent the inadvertent recording or transmission of images from areas where individuals expect privacy. The policy also mandates that the collection or dissemination of data from drone use must not infringe on constitutional rights or discriminate against individuals based on ethnicity, race, gender, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

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To ensure compliance and accountability, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) is responsible for handling all requests for drone-captured video or photographs in accordance with the California Public Records Act. Data collected that is not deemed evidential is required to be purged after 30 days to maintain privacy and data integrity.

In terms of oversight, complaints regarding inappropriate use of drones are to be handled according to LASD Department Policy, with the public able to file complaints in-person or online. Additionally, the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station Training Sergeant is tasked with performing quarterly audits of UAS flights to ensure adherence to policies, with findings reported back to the City.

Reflecting on the success of similar initiatives in other cities, City Hall is recommending a one-year pilot Drone as First Responder program. This pilot is designed to equip deputies with real-time, decision-quality data to improve incident management and enhance de-escalation capabilities during emergencies.

Operational requirements for the drone program include a dedicated deputy and an FAA-trained contractor, with the deputy acting as the Remote Pilot in Command from the Real-Time Watch Center. This center is also slated to coordinate operations involving fixed real-time cameras, which, like drones, are restricted to reactive use during specific incidents rather than continuous surveillance.

Each pilot program, including the drones, fixed cameras, and the watch center, carries an estimated annual cost of $250,000. The implementation phase for each is expected to take approximately 180 days, pending City Council approval. 

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Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
1 month ago

Prediction:
The lady commissioner is going to hate the drones and ask for no more cops.

Robert Steloff
1 month ago

A drone program with the intelligence, efficiency, cost, & ability to expediently track increased crime (of all sorts), would ONLY aid WEHO in being a better safer safer fast-growing city. Too much has materialized & clearly we are a camera-ready society whereby this technology must be utilized. I would also like to see captured information retained for a minimum of 180 days, not 30 days given the amount of investigatory work after a crime has been committed. We cannot and should not remain in the dark ages.

:dpb
:dpb
1 month ago

I’m all for this drone pilot program; hopefully it will augment the sheriff department enforcement and tactical capabilities. I am concerned as to what qualifications our Public Safety Commission has in evaluating the program as Danny Rivas on down has demonstrated over and over a lack of policing protocol, tactical understanding and just plain common sense. I’m afraid after our ill qualified group of vagabonds is done the drone program will resemble a paper airplane festival.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago

Give them whatever tool they need to help them fight crime. While we’re at it, take the money spent on “security ambassadors” and hire more sheriffs.

Robert Steloff
1 month ago
Reply to  JF1

💯👌🏻

:dpb
:dpb
1 month ago
Reply to  JF1

I second that.

Mikie Friedman
Mikie Friedman
1 month ago
Reply to  :dpb

I just wrote exactly that for part of my public comment tonight!!

dave
dave
1 month ago

I would rather see the money for this pilot program revert back to funds for hiring more sheriffs than operations for operating frivolous drones and cameras that appear will only operate after an event occurs.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  dave

Dave, I would absolutely agree with you except that the Department has suffered from a decline in available deputies due to deputies deciding to quit the profession, retire or move to places like Kern County were there is less emphasis placed on accountability. Also the number of applicants for the Academy is down as young people do not see the profession as being appealing; the public seems rather unconcerned about the number of deputies shot in the line of duty. So there simply are not enough deputies for the City to expand our force. Hopefully this will change but in… Read more »

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

If our “leaders” backed the police perhaps we wouldn’t have such a problem with retention. The fact of the matter is they can’t do anything right and they see the criminals commit crimes and are out on the street again the next day. I don’t know anybody that would do the job they do for what they get paid. They put their life on the line each day and for what they get paid and with the lack of respect, support and and the fact that criminals are back out on the street so fast is so demoralizing. No wonder… Read more »

Stevie
Stevie
1 month ago
Reply to  JF1

It isn’t just the leaders, it’s also a large portion of the general population (and weak/anti-deputy politician department leaders like Jim McDonnell and Robert Luna).

Davedi
Davedi
29 days ago
Reply to  Stevie

Keep voting in liberal, progressives and sit back and watch the spiral continue.

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