Hartford Police Plan To Use Drones To Help With Investigations

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Hartford's Police Department will have another tool in the toolbox when responding to calls. Ten new drones will now be available to use with investigations.

The drones are the latest equipment in Hartford Police's arsenal and will play a big role in the effort to increase public safety and in emergency situations, according to police officials.

"A drone is something that is much more effective and much more useful in trying to locate somebody than then having to deploy 10 or 15 police officers," said Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody. "I definitely see this being a tool where we can mitigate a lot of the danger surrounding vehicle pursuits."

Hartford police say that the drones will be used to find missing persons and suspects and help track down dirt bikes and ATVs that may be riding on the highway.

"We can cover so much area with the drones that would take a really long time with cops on foot, especially at night," said Sgt. Chris Mastroianni.

Four police officers have been FAA certified in order to operate the unmanned aircraft. A small number of drones will be used for the crime scene division and the rest will help with police operations.

Even with the potential benefits, there is some skepticism about when and where the drones will be flying.

"I literally think there's cameras all over the city, I don't think police would miss a beat and I think it's unnecessary," said Kali Abrams, who lives in Hartford. "I believe that money could go to the inner-city community and I feel uneasy that they would use these in other situations other than emergencies."

Claudine Fox is the director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the ACLU in Connecticut and has some questions about the aircraft usage and policies.

"How long and how many people will have access to that information to make sure that it's only to be used for those specific instances and they should be willing to commit to specific and explicit guardrails," said Fox. "It's shameful that in a city where some people are struggling to survive, police are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy drones."

According to Hartford Police, they plan to adhere to the laws in place.

"There's a lot of rules with these drones and you have FAA regulations, you have state regulations, and we also have our local internal policies that we have to follow," said Sgt Mastroianni. "We do have to communicate with Brainard (Airport) every time we fly whether during the day or night it does not matter."

Hartford police say one of their drones has helped with the search for a missing 8-year-old and locating a stolen vehicle.

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