If a law enforcement agency is going to add a trio of drones to serve and protect the public, as Mahwah police just did, it might as well get the best.
The three new additions are “the most advanced drones available to law enforcement,” Police Chief James N. Batelli said Tuesday.
Township police can’t be everywhere, but they can maneuver to unique vantage points with their new mini-squadron.
- Search and rescue operations : The drones assist with missing person investigations, Amber Alerts, Silver Alerts and lost hikers, for instance – the last of which will be particularly useful in Mahwah;
- Damage assessment : The drones can take video or photographs to determine the extent of damage after natural disasters;
- Virtual accident reconstruction ;
- Fire footage , to assist during active fires and arson investigations;
- “Situational awareness” : The drones can help first responders understand the particulars of an incident through aerial photographs, video monitoring or thermal imaging;
- Assessing tactical deployment needs in emergencies : for instance, when there are hostages, barricaded subjects or active shooters – anything from a perimeter search for a burglar to a large-scale response to a major incident;
- Documenting scenes at crashes or other major incidents ;
- Traffic monitoring (Yessssss....).
In charge of an 11-officer staff of officers -- all of whom volunteered for the assignment -- are Sgt. Stacy Conley and Sgt. Michael Blondin.
All participants receive two days of training from instructors at Propellerheads Aerial, a veteran-owned, FAA Part 107 licensed company, the chief said.
The course covers safety, knowledge and operations, including thermal imaging and night flying, he said.
All must obtain FAA licensing – as did Officer Luke Rice, a licensed helicopter and drone pilot who, Batelli said, did extensive research for the selection of the drones.
“The operation of the drones will be conducted in accordance with all guidelines issued by the New Jersey Attorney General,” the chief said. “The team will work closely with the Mahwah Office of Emergency Management and Mahwah Fire Department on common endeavors.”
And for those who just have to ask: The fleet was bought with money seized in crimes, Batelli said. Same goes for the training. Doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.
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