Marshfield, WI (OnFocus) Officers will soon have a handy new tool at their disposal with the purchase of a drone.
“Over the last few years, we have seen several opportunities where access to a drone would have been useful,” said Chief Rick Gramza, Marshfield Police Department.
The potential uses for a drone include taking aerial photographs of large crashes or crime scenes, conducting surveillance prior to a warrant execution, investigating fires, and performing search operations.
“Using the drone technology would give officers an opportunity to search larger areas more efficiently,” said Gramza. “We have performed training regarding missing children with our Police Auxiliary, and this would have been very useful in assisting with missing person cases.”
The drone would also have come in handy in vehicle pursuits where the driver fled on foot, such as the incident in late March where a male fled the scene after crashing into a fence at Grant Elementary.
“Having a drone would make locating the suspects less dangerous, especially in dangerous weather conditions,” said Gramza.
The department anticipates that it will cost between $7-10 thousand to purchase a drone, then equip and train multiple officers on how to use it. Although the exact drone model has yet to be selected, the department plans to equip the drone with thermal imaging.
A heat signature is helpful in locating a missing or wanted person, as the Janesville Police Department recently demonstrated. Earlier in April, the department deployed its drone to locate a man who fled his home to avoid custody. During the search, the drone marked out a person hiding between a nearby home and shed.
Officer Steve Carpenter, the drone operator, was able to clearly guide an officer to the suspect, who then surrendered.
The Janesville Police Department considers the drone to be a valuable tool in accomplishing tasks which would otherwise be labor intensive, such as a neighborhood search, and do so in seconds.
“Especially if we get a child or a citizen at risk, time is one of the biggest factors,” Carpenter said.
Since the purchase of the drone over a year ago, Janesville officers have used it to photograph crash scenes and perform other miscellaneous tasks, such as taking aerial photos of the dam for the city engineering department as a way to monitor water levels.
The Salute a Soldier 5k/1k event on Saturday, May 18 will act as the principal fundraiser for the Marshfield Police Department drone. The event is held annually in memory of Army Staff Sergeant Joe Altmann, 27, who was killed in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan on Christmas Day, 2011.
“I contacted Chief Gramza earlier this year to see if there was anything we could do to help,” said Kristen Niehaus, Joe’s sister. “Last year we helped the fire department purchase all of their Stop the Bleed kits, so we thought we could spread the love and check with the police department. Luckily they had been talking about possibly purchasing a drone, so I knew this was our chance.”
The run is held at the Marshfield National Guard Armory. Registration begins at 8 a.m. with the start of the race at 9 a.m. A 30-minute boot camp will be held after the race for $10. Event proceeds will go toward the purchase of the drone.