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Denver Police Dept. develops drone program, eventually hoping to have drones respond to emergency situations

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Posted at 4:59 PM, May 30, 2024

DENVER — The Denver Police Department is working to further develop its drone program, with the eventual hope being drones will respond to emergency situations before an officer meets them there.

"We're doing the... crawl, walk, run approach with our drone program," said Philip Gonshak, the director of strategic initiatives for the Denver Police Department (DPD).

The first part of the drone program will allow for Denver police officers to respond to an in-progress situation and deploy a drone from their patrol vehicles.

The "patrol-led" portion of the program will allow drones and officers to respond to "anything that's emergent and has a nexus to public safety being our No. 1 priority," Gonshak said.

The other part of the program will eventually be the "drones as first responders" portion.

"Ultimately, we would like to get to the point where it is drones as first responders," Gonshak said. "That's putting drone systems on top of our headquarters and top of our district stations so that they could respond to calls for service."

Gonshak told Denver7 the department is still a ways away from deploying drones as first responders.

The development of the drone program is being made possible thanks to a nearly $100,000 grant from the Denver Police Foundation.

"We have provided the first half of that money to the department, we actually provided directly to the vendor," said Megan Pletcher, the executive director for the Denver Police Foundation. "We've provided $50,000 to the vendor to purchase five of the seven drones."

Pletcher told Denver7 the goal is to purchase seven drones to be used as part of the drone program. The foundation and police department are hoping 12 of its officers are able to obtain licenses and train to operate those drones.

"We want to be careful about how we spend that $100,000," Gonshak said.

Gonshak added that while the eventual goal is to deploy drones as first responders, he wants community members to know those drones will not replace officers.

"There is no backdoor policies being drafted and we want to make sure that we're being as participatory with the community as much as we possibly can, and then obviously inviting those who have the ability to make those changes be partners with us," Gonshak said. "As far as first responders, I will tell you that ultimately, what we would like to do is make sure that this augments our patrol response or augments our emergency response."

"This is not a program that's built in to replace police officers by any means," he added.

The "drones as first responders" portion of the program is still at least a year away from launch, according to Gonshak. He said it'll require more funding to purchase necessary equipment to meet the goal.

DPD works to develop drone program to respond to emergency situations

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