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Bethel church donates $25K to fund Redding police drones

The Redding city council voted to accept a $25,000 donation from Bethel Church to help the police department fund an unmanned aerial vehicle(UAV) program.

Posted: Dec. 20, 2017 7:13 PM

The Redding city council voted to accept a $25,000 donation from Bethel Church to help the police department fund an unmanned aerial vehicle(UAV) program.

That money would be used to buy several UAV's, or drones as they're most commonly known, as well as train officers on the equipment.

Like many other police departments its size, Redding doesn't have it's own helicopters.

So it relies on the assistance of CHP's northern aerial division, which covers 13 counties throughout the North State, for air support.

“So their air operations can get called out for any of those counties,” Redding Police sergeant Chris Smyrnos said. “We're just very fortunate that we have them based here in Redding up at Benton so we get to use them quite a bit because that's where they're based at. But if they're out of the area in Trinity County or Siskiyou County then they're unavailable to us.”

That's why the Redding is looking into UAV's as a tool to help them in their investigations.

“Having that aerial perspective can make a big difference as far as comprehending or understanding especially more complicated collision or crime scenes,” Smyrnos said.

The program would cost $25,000 to launch and $2,000 a year to maintain, which will come out of the city’s general fund.

“At this point we're looking at two Phantom 4 packages and then one Mavic package,” Smyrnos said. “And the package includes the actual UAV in addition to spare batteries, carrying cases, extra propellers and consumable parts. The iPads for viewing the live video footage and so forth.”

Earlier this year, the city council voted to accept a $500,000 donation from the church to help fund the Neighborhood Police Unit which was met with some concern from citizens.

The same concern surrounded this donation and several people voiced their opinion at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Smyrnos hopes the UAV's will help improve public and officer safety.

He says they provide a valuable tool in search and rescue operations, narcotics investigations and swat operations, but never to conduct random surveillance activities.

“They're only to help us again get an aerial perspective when our incident commanders and supervisors feel it would help to enhance the safety of the officers and and the public,” Smyrnos said.

The program is expected to be operational late spring or early summer 2018.

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