Poulsbo PD looks into developing a drone program

POULSBO — The Poulsbo Police Department will be looking to acquire funds for a drone program during a city council meeting scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Some $3,500 is being requested from funds already dogeared for law enforcement and safety operations. The department, Police Chief Dan Schoonmaker said, was in the process of coming up with operational policies for the program.

The drone program, Schoonmaker said, would have a number of applications including search and rescue exercises and assisting in planning ahead of executing a search warrant.

“We could certainly use it for monitoring the boats out in the harbor, water rescue situations, monitoring the crowd and the parade route for Viking Fest,” Schoonmaker said. “We think there’s a lot of good applications that we can use the drone for and [can] have a policy that is restrictive enough to where the public knows that we’re using it in a safe and respectful manner, which isn’t going to intrude on people’s privacy but is certainly going to enhance our ability to do our jobs a little better.”

While the chief noted that having an eye in the sky was an invaluable tool in some situations, the whole program would first be subject to scrutiny from the council and the public.

“Although we believe it’s a good idea, it still has to go through process. The Public Safety and Legal Committee is reviewing a draft policy and then it would have to go to council. We want to be very open about it,” Schoonmaker said. “We certainly want to bring it in.”

Port of Poulsbo commissioner Mark DeSalvo said the port’s status as an airport makes most drone operations subject to certain restrictions.

The police department, DeSalvo said, would need to inform the port ahead of drone operations so that the port could issue a Notice To Airmen that drones were operating in the area.

DeSalvo said that the growing presence of drones has required the FAA to quickly respond by creating regulations in order to keep pilots safe. The dangers, he said, come from drone pilots who are unfamiliar with the FAA’s rules and regulations relating to drone operations.

“As for the police department,” DeSalvo said, “I’m sure they will do all their homework and make sure they don’t violate those rules.”

—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at ntwietmeyer@soundpublishing.com

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