Hackensack Police Department launches drone program to help with policing

The Hackensack Police Department is the latest across the state to begin using a drone to help with policing efforts.
About 18 officers have completed training for what’s formally known as the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) program to enhance law enforcement and public safety operations.
The department decided to start using the system after seeing the Elizabeth Police Department’s success with it.
“The drone will fly autonomously automatically to the site of a 911 call and give an overview of what’s going on,” explained Lt. Ryan Weber, of the Hackensack Police Department Detective Bureau.
Weber, a former pilot, has taken the lead with this roughly $15,000 initiative, which doesn’t include the cost of the drone. He explained the efficiency of the technology in helping first responders assess a situation before they even arrive.
“Right now, we’re responding to all 911 calls; including fire alarm calls. We’ll send it out there and see if there’s a fire. This drone has a thermal imaging camera, so it can pick up heat signatures,” said Weber.
While News 12 was at the department, the drone assisted in a call for a fire alarm being pulled in town.
The new technology will also be used for search and rescue missions, accident and crime scene documentation, fleeing/hiding suspects, routine safety deployments, aerial photography, medical calls, and various other incidents where expedited public safety response is vital.
Weber says the department has to follow the same process to obtain a search warrant if the drone is to be used to search a property.
“If there’s a call about an incident where there’s somebody running down the street, then at that point we’ll have the camera looking down at whatever the situation is,” he said.
Weber says the camera will look down upon arriving at the scene and begin a thorough survey of the area.
“The drone goes right to the location of the 911 call. Then it turns down and we watch the scene,” said Weber. “Then once we’re done, it turns around to headquarters and the camera is facing forward again, so it’s not looking down at people’s properties.”
The camera will be angled down only if a caller cannot accurately identify or communicate the location of the situation or if there is an ongoing search operation.