Yonkers PD to use drones as first responders in new pilot program

The drones will be piloted by members of the Westchester Drone Ops, which Det. Sgt. DiDomizio said was a "non-negotiable."

Emily Young

Apr 16, 2024, 9:24 PM

Updated 32 days ago

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Yonkers will pilot a new program this summer called "Drone as a First Responder" which would allow for an emergency police response to priority calls in a matter of seconds.
The program is the first on the East Coast.
On Tuesday, police tested their equipment in conjunction with Flying Lion, a drone service for public safety, to perfect the drone and its systems before police begin a 60-day trial period.
Officials say the drone can completely change the concept of policing.
"A suspect that's fleeing the scene of the crime before officers are able to get there by car or by foot, obviously the drone in the air will be able to give officers an indication of where that suspect went and be able to follow them discreetly, and apprehend him safely," said Yonkers Police Spokesman Frank DiDomizio.
Thats not all its applications.
"A lot of times, officers don't know what the scene looks like until it gets there. In the matter of a minutes, we can have a drone on the scene. Were able to asses the situation earlier and get more resources to the scene quicker."
And this isn't any regular drone - it's much bigger, with infrared technology allowing it to see heat sources in the dark, and it can carry stuff.
"People are getting lost or needing to be rescued, you can drop a flotation device to them to assist them that way, explained Barry Brennan, founder of Flying Lion. "Same thing in a search and rescue environment, you might be able to drop some first aid kit or a thermal blanket, so its a great resource to be able to drop things down to somebody."
The drones will be piloted by members of the Westchester Drone Ops, which Det. Sgt. DiDomizio said was a "non-negotiable." "We wanted to ensure the pilots were from within our great community," he said, "and therefore have a vested interest in the success and legitimacy of this program."
But while Yonkers police are excited to get this up and running, there is this note of caution.
"Without public transparency and a check on the use of these drones, it risks the snowballing effect where police will use drones for more and more purposes without no checks on the way these harms minority communities," said Ivey Dyson, council at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law.
The pilot program is expected to take off this June. Yonkers police say a link will be made public for the community to view flight paths, durations and call type to promote full transparency.


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